OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma fell to UCLA, 16-3, in game one of the Women's College World Series championship by struggling to do the two things they've done better than any team all year: pitching and fielding.
The Bruins' 16 runs and their 13-run margin of victory are the largest in WCWS championship history. And it came against the team that led the nation in ERA.
"They cleaned our clocks," Okahoma coach Patty Gasso said. "There's no tip-toeing around it. That's the bottom line. There's nothing in our game that worked tonight. Nothing. Our pitching wasn't good, our defense wasn't good ... It's very atypical of this team and it happened at the wrong time."
Junior LHP Giselle Juarez got the start. The back-to-back NFCA First Team All-American gave up a home run to Aaliyah Jordan in the first inning and finished with four innings pitched, five hits allowed and three earned runs.
Then Gasso handed the ball to Second Team All-Big 12 pitcher Mariah Lopez. The junior only lasted 1.1 innings, gave up four hits and three earned runs.
Junior Shannon Saile, who was tied for eighth in the nation in ERA, got 0.2 innings and gave up two home runs. The Sooners closed with junior Nicole Mendes, who only pitched 8.1 innings all year, in the seventh. She was the only Sooner to not allow a home run, but still gave up five hits and four runs.
"Giselle didn't throw well, it wasn't her night," Gasso said. "It wasn't Mariah's night, it wasn't Shannon's night. I put Nicole Mendes out there as the sacrificial lamb for this team, and maybe that wasn't fair ... I needed to get those three off the field and just let them regroup as soon as possible."
It wasn't just the pitching that held back the Sooners, as the team that led the nation in fielding percentage struggled to make routine plays. Three errors in a row from Oklahoma led to two runs in the third inning. The Sooners tallied four errors on the night.
It started with UCLA's Kinsley Washington hitting a ground ball to freshman shortstop Grace Lyons, who proceeded to throw the ball over to senior Shay Knighten too high, forcing the first baseman to take her foot off the bag. The very next at-bat, Knighten covered a bunt and threw to senior Caleigh Clifton, who dropped the catch. To top it all off, senior Falepolima Aviu committed an error by struggling to field a ball in left field, which allowed UCLA's Kelli Godin to score.
Three consecutive at-bats; three errors, two runs.
"(Clifton) doesn't drop a ball at second on a bunt, she doesn't do that and (Lyons) doesn't overthrow at first," Gasso said. "Then it just seemed to run into every part of our game."
Now, the Sooners have less than 24 hours to gather themselves and take on UCLA again. The Bruins have outscored Oklahoma 23-3 in the 14 innings they've played against each other this season. Now, a senior class that has made four WCWS appearances and won two titles is possibly just seven innings away from the end of their Oklahoma careers.
"All we can do is just flush it," Knighten said. "Let it go, it happened, you can't change it. The outcome is the outcome, but we just have to go back, recoup, regenerate, do what we have to get done and just come out with the same mentality that we had today: attack and play Sooner softball."
Game two of the series will be 7:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday, June 3, at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.