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Tuesday August 3rd, 2021 9:54PM

Oklahoma, Florida State advance to WCWS championship series

By The Associated Press
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kaley Mudge went 5 for 5, and Florida State beat Alabama 8-5 on Monday night to advance to the Women’s College World Series final.

The 10th-seeded Seminoles will play top-seeded Oklahoma in a best-of-three series starting Tuesday. The Sooners beat Odicci Alexander and James Madison 7-1 in the first semifinal on Monday.

Oklahoma (54-3) is going for its fifth national title. Florida State (48-11-1) won its only championship in 2018. Both teams lost their World Series openers this year before winning four consecutive elimination games.

Alabama's Montana Fouts, who threw a perfect game against UCLA on Friday, got into trouble early on against Florida State.

Elizabeth Mason connected for a three-run homer in the first for the Seminoles. Mudge’s single knocked in Josie Muffley in the second. Kalei Harding tacked on a two-run single in the third, making it 6-0 and chasing Fouts.

Fouts allowed one run in her first two World Series games and had 30 strikeouts without allowing a walk. Mason said patience was the key to solving her.

“Just trying to get the barrel to the ball, see it down," Mason said. “She does spot a couple down in the zone. So just doing our best to lay off the rise ball, and when she does miss, to make sure we’re ready for that pitch."

Third-seeded Alabama (52-9) closed to 8-5 with three runs in the fifth, including Bailey Hemphill's two-run homer. But the Seminoles held on.

Mudge entered the night with a .280 batting average.

“It’s amazing to see Mudge’s performance tonight," Mason said. “She’s been one person on our team who has worked tirelessly day in and day out. She’s had it in her from Day One. I think as a team we’ve had it in us from Day One. Couldn’t be happier that it’s coming together now, and I’m so proud of Mudge tonight. We all are."

In the early game, Giselle Juarez struck out 11 in another stellar performance for Oklahoma.

Behind Alexander's pitching, unseeded James Madison surprised Oklahoma on the opening day of the tournament Thursday. The Sooners 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."

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."

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.

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
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