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Wednesday June 16th, 2021 9:42AM

Oklahoma tops James Madison, advances to championship series

By The Associated Press
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Giselle Juarez struck out 11 in another stellar performance, helping top-seeded Oklahoma beat Odicci Alexander and James Madison 7-1 in a Women’s College World Series semifinal on Monday.

Behind Alexander's pitching, unseeded James Madison surprised Oklahoma on the opening day of the tournament Thursday to move the Sooners into the losers bracket. Oklahoma won two games on Saturday, and then beat James Madison on Sunday to force the winner-take-all game for a spot in the championship series.

Alexander, who pitched complete games in wins over Oklahoma and No. 5 seed Oklahoma State to reach the semifinals, lasted into the fifth inning Monday. The crowd of mostly Oklahoma fans gave a tearful Alexander a standing ovation as she left the field.

“It was amazing," she said. “I mean, it’s more than just a game. To see them all clapping for me and cheering me on, I mean, it was a great moment, and it warmed my heart."

Juarez was impressed with Alexander.

“Game recognizes game, and she is a baller," Juarez said. “I have mad respect for her, and she gave everything she had and I think it’s really awesome that they did give her that standing ovation. She earned it. She deserves it. She’s worked hard, and I think she’s a competitor, and she did great this year."

It was the first World Series appearance for James Madison (41-4), the Colonial Athletic Association champion. Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said James Madison and coach Loren LaPorte gave softball a boost.

“I think singlehandedly James Madison made our sport better because they brought a lot of people in that wanted to watch them," Gasso said. “I think that’s the ultimate compliment I could give a coach and a program."

Oklahoma (54-3) will play the winner of Monday’s second semifinal between No. 3 seed Alabama and No. 10 Florida State in a series that will start Tuesday. Oklahoma is going for its fifth national title after winning in 2000, 2013, 2016 and 2017.

Juarez, or “G” as she often goes by, allowed four hits in the complete game. Kate Gordon drove the left-hander's first pitch over the wall in left, riling up the small group of loyal purple-clad fans behind the team’s dugout, but it was all Juarez from there.

“They were coming out swinging and they’re a good hitting team, so (it was about) respecting them and attacking the zone, but really staying within myself and going at my pace and knowing that every time I get three outs, our hitters are back up there," Juarez said.

Oklahoma went ahead to stay in the fourth. Nicole Mendes tripled and scored on a wild pitch. Jana Johns made it 2-1 when she singled in Lynnsie Elam.

The Sooners then broke it open with four runs in the fifth. Mackenzie Donihoo and Jayda Coleman each had a two-run double.

Jocelyn Alo hit her 32nd homer of the season — extending her school record — in the sixth to push Oklahoma's lead to 7-1.

___

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , College Sports, AP Sports - College Baseball
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