OKLAHOMA CITY — Nicole Mendes’ prayers were literally answered in a crucial sixth-inning at-bat.
A back-and-forth game between Oklahoma and Alabama led to a 2-2 tie at Hall of Fame Stadium.
The junior Mendes stepped to the plate with Raegan Rogers on first. But before she tripled to left center, she took a moment to pray.
“I know in my last at-bat (before the triple), I didn’t quite get what I wanted,” Mendes said. “But I knew I was happy and we had a good game plan. And going into the at-bat, I took a moment to stop and I prayed.
“And I said, ‘I give it up to you, Lord.’”
Mendes let out a celebration on third base after she recorded her 12th career triple, Rogers crossed home plate and secured a 3-2 win for the Sooners over the Crimson Tide.
It was a fitting way for the Sooners to open their final Women’s College World Series run with its incomparable senior class.
OU’s seniors won their first-ever Women’s College World Series game against Alabama in 2016. The Sooners, thanks to a few clutch scores like Mendes’, replicated that performance with Thursday’s victory.
“We had some good hard hit balls that they made some good plays on, so I felt very confident with this team,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “They came in very comfortable and we understand the importance of winning the first game. There wasn’t any pressure there. They were so together tonight, it felt really good.”
The Sooners struck first in the bottom of the opening frame after Giselle Juarez retired the first three Alabama batters in order.
OU’s leadoff hitter, Sydney Romero, then singled to right field and was scored on a sacrifice fly from Caleigh Clifton.
The Crimson Tide responded in the top of the third with Bailey Hemphill’s RBI single to plate Claire Jenkins. OU quickly retook the lead, however, in the bottom half of the frame.
Romero hit a leadoff triple, followed by Jocelyn Alo hitting a two-out single to plate the senior Romero and put OU ahead 2-1.
Alabama’s Jenkins tied the game again with a solo shot in the fifth inning off Juarez, but Mendes would help OU steal a win from Alabama in the programs’ seventh meeting at the Women’s College World Series.
Juarez ended her night with nine strikeouts and allowed four hits.
OU’s win puts them in Friday night’s winner’s bracket game against Oklahoma State. It’s the first time the Bedlam rivals have met in a Women’s College World Series game ever.
Gasso was asked after Thursday’s win what it meant to prepare for the high-stakes Bedlam meeting.
The Sooners head coach didn’t seem too concerned about the name of the team in the other dugout as long as her group.”
“It’s going to be somebody,” Gasso said. “And if it’s not them, it’s Florida. There’s history and I know everyone wants to see it but we just want to find ways to win. We want to get ourselves to a place where we’re playing on Sunday.”