This time, Florida had a lead. This time, it ended before midnight Eastern.
But the song ultimately remained the same on Tuesday in the Women’s College World Series, as big swings by Oklahoma gave the Sooners enough runs to hold off the Gators in a 5-4 win to grab a national championship.
Surprise Florida starter Aleshia Ocasio yielded the first of the Sooners’ runs in the bottom of the first inning, with leadoff hitter Nicole Mendes depositing a shot in left field to go up 1-0. But Florida rallied back in the top of the second, knocking out Oklahoma ace Paige Parker in a three-run frame, with an Ocasio single giving the Gators their first lead over the Sooners since the fourth inning of Monday’s epic Game 1.
By the end of the second, though, that lead was lost. Ocasio loaded the bases before ceding the mound to Delanie Gourley, and Gourley walked in a run and gave up a three-run double to Game 1 hero Shay Knighten, giving the Sooners a lead they would not relinquish.
Chelsea Herndon cut the lead to 5-4 in the fourth inning with a solo homer, but the Gators could not plate another run over the final five innings of play — despite seeing Mariah Lopez and Mendes, two of Oklahoma’s lesser pitchers — to extend the game or their season.
That meant the stellar outing from Gourley, who gave up just one earned run in 4.2 innings of relief, would be her last as a Gator. And it doomed Florida to a 2-3 mark in Women’s College World Series championship series under Tim Walton, a reminder of how painful being within eyesight of the mountaintop can be.
But Oklahoma and Florida have now won the last five national titles in Division I softball, and both teams are stocked with underclassmen who should be key contributors for years to come.
After falling in this classic series, Florida will be able to seek vengeance throughout 2018 — and may well end up meeting the Sooners with something shiny on the line once more.