No unseeded team had ever won its first two games at the Women’s College World Series, so James Madison’s second straight triumph in Oklahoma City was historic in its own right on Friday night.
The way that the Dukes have gotten to softball’s final four is nothing short of incredible.
James Madison’s WCWS debut came on Thursday, and the Dukes became the first unseeded team to upset the top seed since 2008, with Kate Gordon blasting an eighth-inning homer to knock off Oklahoma, only the Sooners’ third loss of the season.
Odicci Alexander, who tossed a 129-pitch complete game in the extra-inning thriller, returned to the circle a day later, and not only pitched even better, hurling a three-hitter, she made the play of a lifetime to help preserve a 2-1 victory over No. 5 Oklahoma State. And remember, this tournament is in Oklahoma City, so not only was James Madison a major underdog for these two games, they basically amounted to road games.
With one out in the seventh inning, and runners on second and third, OSU left fielder Chelsea Alexander dropped down a squeeze. Odicci Alexander, who had scored herself on a first-inning error, went ahead and saved a run, fielding the bunt and making a headlong dive to tag pinch-runner Scotland David before she could reach home with the tying run.
Alexander got Kiley Naomi to pop up to end the game, moving to 18-1 with a 1.21 ERA on the season. She also has a .480 on-base percentage, doing her best to be college softball’s Jacob deGrom, and now can take a rest on Saturday after her back-to-back complete games. The Dukes will find out their semifinal opponent on Saturday night.
It could be a rematch against the Sooners, who face Georgia in Saturday’s opening game. The winner of that contest will face No. 2 UCLA on Saturday night and advance to meet James Madison. Either way, if James Madison doesn’t win that Sunday afternoon game, the Dukes get another crack at making the finals on Sunday night — the magic of a double-elimination tournament.
No team from outside of the Power 5 has won a Women’s College World Series since Fresno State in 1998. DePaul and Southern Miss went to the semifinals in 1999 and 2000, representing Conference USA, and that’s the last time any mid-major made it as far as James Madison has now.
Alexander’s diving tag was an amazing way to get a rare entry into a scorebook — FC-1u(HP).
Major League Baseball had its own rarity on Friday, a CS-2u, brought to you by Nationals catcher Alex Avila’s sprinting and Travis Jankowski of the Phillies having absolutely no idea what he was doing running the bases… not the best thing for a pinch runner… in a one-run game… in the ninth inning.
J.T. Realmuto then struck out and Brad Miller flied out to end Philadelphia’s 2-1 loss.
Somewhere in between Alexander and Jankowski is Vanderbilt co-ace Kumar Rocker, who played the key role in a K(2-1-3) as a swinging third strike bounced off his catcher and back to him.
Rocker had eight other strikeouts in his seven innings of two-hit ball, leading Vanderbilt past Presbyterian, 10-0, in the Nashville Regional.
There was a lot more drama in Knoxville, where Tennessee got a walk-off grand slam from Drew Gilbert to avoid being upset by Wright State.
And in minor league baseball, Johan Mieses of the Worcester Red Sox hit a gosh darn freight train with a dinger.
Those last two had a more conventional scorebook notation: HR, unlike the 1-5-4 double play that the Mets turned in in San Diego. Yes, 1-5-4.
And then there was Jewell Loyd with another walkoff for the Seattle Storm.
Wait, that’s not baseball. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.
Fine, Montana Fouts is. Alabama’s ace is the reason that reigning champion UCLA is in that loser’s bracket playing for a chance to face James Madison in the semifinals, as in the Oklahoma City nightcap, she faced 21 Bruins and retired them all, striking out 14 for the fifth perfect game in Women’s College World Series history.
The Crimson Tide will face Arizona, Florida State, or Oklahoma State in the semifinals on Sunday.