Gritty, unseeded Texas fought off elimination twice in one day to earn a shot at a national championship.
Courtney Day hit a three-run homer for the second straight game — this one sparking a rally from a five-run deficit — and Texas stunned No. 7 seed Oklahoma State 6-5 on Monday night to advance to the Women’s College World Series finals.
Texas needed to win two games in the double-elimination format to move forward, while Oklahoma State only needed one victory. The Longhorns (47-20-1) blanked the Cowgirls 5-0 in the first game of Monday night’s doubleheader, then won the nightcap for their sixth win in an elimination game this NCAA postseason.
“It’s crazy,” said Texas pitcher Estelle Czech, who threw a four-hitter in the first game. “It’s mind-boggling, and I wouldn’t want to go through it with anyone else. Our pitching staff is stacked. Our hitting is stacked. Defense is stacked. We’re so hyped. No one thought that we would be here, but we proved everyone wrong, and we’re going to play very hard.”
Texas will play its biggest rival — No. 1 seed and defending national champion Oklahoma — in a best-of-three championship series starting Wednesday. In this version of the Red River Rivalry, Oklahoma will seek its sixth national title while Texas tries for its first.
In the second game, Hailey Dolcini (24-11) worked five strong innings in relief for the Longhorns, allowing one hit — a two-run homer by Karli Petty that put Oklahoma State ahead 5-0 in the third.
“Being down 5-0, it’s tough,” Texas coach Mike White said. “You start thinking about the end of the season and what you’re going to say and what you’re going to do. Then you hang in there, and you keep the spirits of the team up and see how they respond.”
It appeared the Cowgirls would roll from there, but Texas seized momentum instead. After an infield single and a one-out walk in the fourth, Day hit a drive that glanced off the top of the fence and over to get the Longhorns to 5-3.
“I mean, that ball got out there really quick, so I just reacted,” Oklahoma State left fielder Chelsea Alexander said. “I don’t think I had my glove quite high enough. Just kind of tipped the ball at the top of my glove and just didn’t make the catch.”
Oklahoma State gave away the lead in the fifth with two defensive miscues on one play.
With two runners on, Bella Dalton singled and Petty bobbled the ball in right field, allowing Jordyn Whitaker to score from second. First baseman Hayley Busby cut off the throw but threw wildly to second, and the ball rolled all the way to the outfield wall as Mia Scott scored the tying run and Dalton came in behind her to make it 6-5.
“We can look back at that one play because it had so much implication, but it didn’t cost us the game,” Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski said. “We just didn’t score enough runs, and we just weren’t clean enough all the way around.”
The Cowgirls’ Kelly Maxwell (21-5) struck out 11 batters in 6 2/3 innings. Only three of the six runs she allowed were earned.
“I feel for them,” White said. “No one wants to go out and lose like that, but we’ve been there, too.”
The Cowgirls (48-14) had won the first four meetings with the Longhorns this season, but Texas was ready this time.
Day’s three-run homer in the second inning of the first game was more than enough for Czech (13-1). Her performance allowed the Longhorns to save Dolcini, the team’s ace. Morgan Day (13-5) went the distance for Oklahoma State in the Game 1 loss, allowing five runs (three earned) in six innings.
Kiley Naomi hit a two-run homer in the second inning of the second game for Oklahoma State before things fell apart.
Even with the losses, the Cowgirls matched their best finish ever.
“It is what it is,” Oklahoma State third baseman Sydney Pennington said. “We played pretty clean defense all season and just had a couple of mishaps there at the end. I’m just really proud of this team and what we’ve done in this World Series.”