OU softball beats Florida on Jayta Coleman’s HR to reach WCWS final

In a hallway in the Devon Park basement, Jayda Coleman blasted a walk-off homer to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning an hour after extending OU’s season, leading the Sooners to a 6-5 win over Florida. From a chair, he grabbed teammate Alyssa Prieto in a bear hug.

The two shared a few words about being a part of what their coach Patty Casso called “one of the best games in (Women’s) College World Series history.”

That moment was special.

Even more meaningful was the moment they shared just before Coleman hit the home run.

Brito said he felt “called” to talk to Coleman the day before, the day before the game.

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But things got away from her, the game was tight and there were other concerns.

In the sixth inning, with a run on second, Brito decided to have a few words with Coleman.

“Obviously she wants to win, I know that, we all want her to win,” Prieto said The Oklahoman After victory. “It wasn’t a magazine or anything. But I was like, ‘Okay, this is the time.’

Prieto told Coleman that his value isn’t tied to what happened at-bat or other games.

“Who cares,” Brito said. He said, “God has defined you. He has given you value. You are to be admired as a daughter.”

Coleman jammed on the first pitch and flew out in the infield.

So when Coleman stood in the on-deck circle midway through the eighth, Prieto decided he needed to do more.

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Instead of a conversation, Brito put his arms around Coleman and prayed.

But not for the end.

“She slowed me down and prayed over me,” Coleman said. “She said, ‘Surrender everything. Don’t try to control everything. Choose the same.’ No matter what, no matter what the at-bat is, I’m not justified.

What happened next was a moment that will live in Sooners and WCWS history.

Instead of working Coleman on the inside of the plate, Florida freshman Keegan Rothrock painted the outside corner with the first three pitches.

Coleman took a deep breath.

Rothrock worked the outside corner again, and Coleman dropped it into Florida left fielder Korbe Otis’ outstretched reach to send the Sooners (57-7) to the best-of-three championship series, where they face Texas at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“Going around the bases, I lost it,” Coleman said. “I just started crying. … It was incredible. An incredible feeling.”

There were plenty of plays in the game, with the Sooners trailing 2-0, 4-2 and 5-2 before they came back.

The rest of the core of the Sooners’ three straight title teams struggled when freshmen Ella Parker and Cassidy Pickering came up with big moments.

Kelly Maxwell, a senior who transferred from Oklahoma State to the other side of Bedlam for her final collegiate season, grinded out the win before settling down.

But while it was the rookies who made the moment possible in large part, in the end, it was one of the Sooners’ senior prefect girls, one of their “chaos coordinators,” who made the play that decided the game.

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As she walked around the floors, Coleman thought back to the moment she shared with Britto.

“I think it got me grounded,” Coleman said. “That’s great.”

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Control has been an issue for Maxwell lately.

It came again Tuesday, as Maxwell’s two walks in the first two innings scored runs for the Gators.

Maxwell started the game by walking Skylar Wallace, then after a fielder’s choice, former Sooners Jocelyn Erickson belted a two-run home run.

Maxwell missed the 3-2 pitch and Maxwell led off the second with a walk. Ariel Kowalewski quickly followed with a home run to give Florida a 4-2 lead.

Maxwell led off the sixth and Ava Brown took a 3-2 pitch from the outside corner.

But this time, Florida couldn’t get a runner on.

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Ella Parker took the brunt of the damage, but Parker also did some.

The freshman didn’t slow down after narrowly missing a homer to right center in the fifth inning.

When Parker got to second base, Florida shortstop Skyler Wallace was waiting.

Wallace’s elbow made contact with Parker’s face at second base and both players were sent writhing on the ground in pain.

Moments later, Parker got up and walked off the field under his own power, laughing with his teammates as Maya Plant replaced him as a pinch-runner.

Wallace was at the game.

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Although the ball went away after the collision, Wallace was called for interference on the play.

Jurors reviewed whether Wallace’s contact with Parker was malicious, but quickly ruled that it was accidental.

Despite having a runner on second with no outs, the Sooners were unable to push across the tying run.

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When Alaina Torres left Saturday’s game against UCLA with an injury, it looked like the bottom half of the Sooners’ order could have significant success.

But Hodge came up big in the crucial sixth inning with a one-out double to left field and eventually scored the tying run on Parker’s single to center.

Hodge also had a second-inning single.

It was Hodge’s sixth extra-base hit of the season.

Before his double in Monday’s game, Hodge had not had an extra-base hit since April 9 at Wichita State.

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