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Women’s College World Series: Sooners down, not out after loss to Florida State; ‘Whenever we lose, we don't lose again’

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Nicole May and Nicole Mendes

Freshman pitcher Nicole May and redshirt senior utility Nicole Mendes during the Women’s College World Series championship game against Florida State on June 8.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Patty Gasso couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Down four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the OU head coach decided to send freshman infielder Tiare Jennings home after a double from senior designated player Jocelyn Alo. As Jennings raced from first base and eventually slid to home plate, the Florida State throw was more than just in time — she was tagged out.

Moments later, the Seminoles embraced in victorious praise after a pop fly from sophomore catcher Kinzie Hansen was hauled in to deliver the game’s final out. When the Sooners left the field after their 8-4 loss and regrouped in the locker room postgame, Gasso’s mind was still fixated on her decision at third base.

Now with her team in front of her, Gasso apologized for a call and loss that she believed fell on her.

“I made a horrific call,” Gasso said. “And I own that. I should not have sent Tiare. I (wanted) to push the envelope to create momentum. … That was a bad call by me. But at the same time, (FSU made) a great play. So they earned that. But I'm going to hold onto that for a while.”

Oklahoma’s fall to Florida State in the Women’s College World Series on Tuesday puts the Sooners one loss away from dropping the three-game series, and losing their second consecutive national championship. However, as OU enters game two with its back against a wall, the team has one thing working in its favor — no team has managed to best Oklahoma twice this season.

The Sooners rebounded from their first loss of the year, a 7-6 defeat at the hands of Georgia in nine innings, with a 12-3 run-rule win over the Bulldogs in their immediate rematch afterward. When Oklahoma fell 6-4 to Oklahoma State, the Sooners beat the Cowgirls in their next three matchups.

And most recently, after OU was upset by James Madison 4-3 in eight innings in the opening game of the WCWS, the Sooners went on to topple the Dukes in both semifinal matchups to advance to the WCWS championship.

“Whenever we lose, we don't lose again,” said redshirt senior utility Nicole Mendes of OU’s loss. “And I think we're ready. … So, tomorrow whenever we play, (we’ll) come out attacking (and) we'll score in the first three (innings).”

Sophomore infielder Mackenzie Donihoo, who led the Sooners with two RBIs and brought the OU fans within the WCWS record crowd of 12,173 to their feet with a diving catch in the first inning, said Oklahoma has to “flip a switch” to keep its postseason alive.

All season long, the Sooners have used the famous Russell Crowe-led film “Gladiator” as motivation to flip said mental switch. Just like the gladiators of the film, Oklahoma has overcome its foes every time it's been put in do-or-die situations. It did so when it conquered the WCWS losers’ bracket to get to the national championship series, and now Oklahoma will have to win out again to survive the game’s biggest stage.

“I trust this team — they fight,” Gasso said. “They're fighters. But we did not play well enough to win. And that gives credit to Florida State. They did. We did not. ... We've got to keep fighting. It's not like, ‘Oh, we failed.’ We fought. We fought when we needed to. It just wasn't set up for us tonight. And that happens. 

“But I believe that you'll see a new team tomorrow with a new approach. And I'm looking forward to it.”

Chandler Engelbrecht is a journalism senior and the Daily's assistant sports editor. He currently covers OU football and has previously covered OU men's basketball, volleyball and men's gymnastics.

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