Oklahoma outlasts Florida in epic 17-inning Game 1 of 2017 WCWS Championshp Series

By Adam Silverstein
June 6, 2017
Oklahoma outlasts Florida in epic 17-inning Game 1 of 2017 WCWS Championshp Series

Image Credit: ESPN

No. 1 Florida Gators softball was on a rocket of momentum entering the 2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series. After a 17-inning affair that started Monday and lasted into Tuesday morning, consider that snuffed out. The No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners took it to Florida’s star hurler on Monday in both of her appearances and blasted three home runs in the contest to leave with a 7-5 victory in Game 1 of a series that will decide the national champion.

The game was the longest in WCWS Championship Series history and the longest in UF softball history. The Gators took a 1-0 lead early, fell behind 2-1, tied it in the last out of regulation, fell behind 4-2 in the top of the 12th and tied it again in the last out of that inning. Ultimately, a three-run homer with two outs in the top of the 17th would serve as the game-winning score.

Florida sophomore right-handed pitcher Kelly Barnhill had hardly been hit this postseason, but Oklahoma figured out how to make contact with her throughout the game. She started perfect through four and struck out seven of the first 12 batters she faced. A solo homer — just the 10th allowed by her this season — in the top of the sixth served as the first go-ahead run.

Barnhill allowed consecutive hits in the fifth, which resulted in the first earned run surrendered by Florida in more than 23 WCWS innings. The homer marked the first time UF trailed since arriving in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The Sooners accomplished all this while throwing their No. 2 pitcher in Paige Lowary, a surprise to some considering ace Paige Parker had been rolling this postseason. But Parker got her chance, entering in the bottom of the sixth looking like she was going to run through the Gators … until the final out (and strike) of regulation. That’s when Florida redshirt freshman shortstop Sophia Reynoso found the only empty spot in the outfield, doubling to left center between three converging fielders to score junior third baseman speedster Aleshia Ocasio all the way from first (she reached via fielder’s choice following a lead-off walk).

Gators head coach Tim Walton decided to call on senior left-handed pitcher Delanie Gourley, who was stellar in the WCWS semifinal, to take over for Barnhill once extra innings began, a wise decision considering the Sooners were starting to make consistent contact.

Florida did not initially support Gourley with runs, however, and Oklahoma began tagging her in the fifth inning of her appearance, just as it did with Barnhill earlier in the game. Gourley gave up a double down the left-field line to open the top of the 12th and immediately surrendered a two-run homer to Fale Aviu. It was just the sixth time Gourley had been taken deep this season.

The Gators threatened in the bottom frame with a lead-off walk and single by Reynoso, putting the game-tying run on first with no outs. However, two pinch hitters were wasted at-bats by Florida, and sophomore left fielder Amanda Lorenz stepped in as her team’s last chance. Oklahoma countered by putting Lowary back in the game as she had owned Lorenz earlier in the contest. She was unable to do so again as Lorenz doubled to left, scoring both base runners and tying the game with two outs and two strikes on her count.

Neither team truly made waves again until the 15th when a hit batter and base on balls by Gourley stood as UF’s first walks of the game. With the bases loaded and two out, Reynoso made a heads up 6-5 fielder’s choice to end the frame. Gourley got in trouble again to start the 16th, giving up a lead-off double that led Walton to replace her with Barnhill, who threw nine balls on her first 11 pitches and loaded the bases with one out but got out of the jam with a strikeout to end the frame.

A two-out single and hit batter put two on with two out in the 17th for Barnhill, who left a pitch hanging that resulted in a three-run, game-winning homer, the third allowed by Florida in the game and 17th combined between her and Gourley on the season.

The bottom of the 17th began similarly to every potential game-ending inning for UF with two base on via singles and no one out. Florida soon loaded the bags with another infield single as Lorenz stepped in with one out, but she flied out to left, scoring one, and the inning ended shortly thereafter.

The Gators defeated their prior three WCWS opponents by a combined score of 20-2, while the Sooners are the only team in this year’s event to fail to score first yet still win the game (2-11).

Walton will have a tough decision to make Tuesday in regards to who he starts at pitcher in Game 2. With Lowary returning to the game to replace Parker, Oklahoma will likely go with Parker in the circle.

No matter who starts, Florida desperately needs to find its bats again if it hopes to get back in the series and force Game 3.

The Gators are in the WCWS Championship Series for the third time in four seasons (they won back-to-back titles in 2014-15), while the Sooners are looking for back-to-back titles themselves and three over the last five years. Game 1 winners have won nine of 12 titles in the WCWS format.

UF and OU will meet at 8 p.m. ET in a game that will air live nationally on ESPN.

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