OKLAHOMA CITY — Giselle Juarez told her catcher, sophomore Lynnsie Elam, that the whole situation was funny.
The junior pitcher fell to the Sooners when she played for Arizona State in the Women's College World Series a year prior. Oklahoma beat the Sun Devils, 2-0, in the loser's bracket to send Juarez and her team home.
A year later, just before her WCWS debut as a Sooner, Juarez looked around USA Hall of Fame Stadium, and thought it was a familiar sight. Juarez pitched all seven innings in Oklahoma's 3-2 win over Alabama to advance to the winner's bracket and earn a game against Oklahoma State.
"I was talking to Elam," Juarez said, "I don't know why, but when I was walking up to the field, I was like, 'This is kind of funny. The last time I was on this side, I was playing Oklahoma. Now I'm on their side. Kind of made me laugh.'
"It was crazy because I felt like déjà vu. It was a really awesome feeling to feel with them."
Juarez struck out nine batters while only allowing four hits in the win, but not without some discomfort.
A leadoff hit from Alabama's Claire Jenkins and a single from Elissa Brown set up and RBI single from Bailey Hemphill to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the third. Juarez was able to escape the inning with no more runs with two strike outs.
An RBI single from sophomore Jocelyn Alo would give the Sooners the lead in the bottom of the third inning, but Jenkins would strike again in the fifth inning with a leadoff home run to tie the game once again, at 2-2. Juarez collected herself and exited the inning with two strikeouts. Her performance was getting shaky, but Juarez kept her composure for her teammates, who also flashed the leather multiple times in the game.
"I think I felt calm," Juarez said. "I knew my team had my back."
"The team kept saying 'We got you,'" head coach Patty Gasso said. "Then she would come in the circle and say, 'Hey, don't worry, I got you.' It was a love fest in a good way."
Juarez only let one more batter get on base after a one-out walk in the top of the sixth inning, which saw a fly-out, a ground-out and a line-drive snag from senior third baseman Sydney Romero to get the inning's three outs. In the bottom half, junior outfielder Nicole Mendes hit the go-ahead RBI triple to give the Sooners the 3-2 lead.
Juarez would get the third out of the final inning after Alabama's Caroline Hardy struck out swinging, and would celebrate with the team she had faced last year.
Sooners vs Oklahoma State
Time: 8:30 p.m. CT
Date: Friday, May 31
TV Channel: ESPN