WCWS Finals: Bahl Blanks Florida State in Game 1, Oklahoma Nears Three-PeatTop Stories
The legend of Jordy Bahl began long before she stepped foot onto USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Last season, an injury robbed us of seeing the National Freshman of the Year at her best during the Women’s College World Series. This time around she’s making the most of each pitch and building her legacy.
Oklahoma beat Florida State 5-0 behind Bahl’s gem in the circle. She allowed two hits and struck out 10 batters in the win.
“She wants the ball like nobody’s business,” Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. “Not that we don’t have faith in our others. It’s just she is like a very, very hot pitcher right now. She’s throwing the best she has all season right now. You want to take advantage of that without running her too hard where she’s going to run out of gas. But she is just feeling it right now.”
Bahl quickly attacked the outside of the plate to left-handed hitters, starting the game with a strikeout. But she didn’t live there all night as she typically does. We saw what makes Bahl so great. Her ability to tunnel her pitches between her riseball, drop ball and changeup make it so tough on hitters.
Bethany Keen fought off a few pitches including the riseball but Bahl’s changeup finally got her to whiff. She was able to flip the script too, starting at-bats with the off-speed before getting Florida State hitters to swing at riseballs out of the zone. Even a nine-pitch battle with Mudge ended with Bahl painting the corner for an inning-ending backwards K.
The Sooner ace continued to rise to the occasion with runners in scoring position. Oklahoma had a few uncharacteristic miscues. Bahl, who normally fields her position very well, and Alyssa Brito both committed errors. Florida State’s Hallie Wacaser was able to steal a bag on an unexpecting Kinzie Hansen. Although Oklahoma opened the door for the Seminoles, they couldn’t take advantage of it. Bahl held them to 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, bringing her total at the WCWS to 0-for-18 with 11 strikeouts in those situations. When the lights are the brightest, Bahl is at her best.
She can also thank her batterymate for helping her out of a potential jam in the second inning. After coming back from the rain delay, Bahl wasn’t as sharp. She threw three straight balls to Michaela Edenfield before she singled on a 3-0 pitch. Bahl then fell behind to Devyn Flaherty. The Florida State second baseman looked a the first strike and then thought she watched ball four. And it certainly looked like ball four but Hansen did a tremendous job getting around the pitch to steal a strike. Bahl proceeded to strike out Flaherty and then induced a double play ball to end the frame.
Even with Florida State found its second hit of the night, it ended poorly. Kalei Harding stung a ball to center but Jayda Coleman played it perfectly off the wall and tossed in a laser to get Harding before she even had a shot to slide into second.
“One of the biggest plays I felt of the game was Jayda Coleman getting that ball in from centerfield to throw them out at second,” Gasso said. “That was huge. We just needed momentum. We needed to continue to create momentum because Jordy was the only one doing it at that time. I was really proud of them just really turning things around very quickly and responding to the words we were talking about.”
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The pitcher and catcher duo also combined for the first run of the game. Despite Mack Leonard keeping the Oklahoma lineup in check for most of the night, Florida State’s Lonni Alameda went to Makena Reid after Leonard hit Haley Lee to start the fourth. That turned out to be a mistake. Hansen doubled to center and Bahl, who pitch-run for Lee, scored from first. A looper from Brito then brought Hansen in for the second run.
“When Jordy went in to pinch run, in my mind I was like, if I get the ball in the gap, we’re going to be 1-0,” Hansen said. “Jordy has wheels. She runs circles around us at practice sometimes. She strikes us out, too. It’s all over the place.
“I knew going into my at-bat, my previous at-bat I rolled over, so I was really trying to make that adjustment because I knew, based on the situation and my runner at first, being able to apply that swing to that pitch would end up successful with the team.”
Hansen, who has been the best hitter for the Sooners as of late, drove in another run later in the game. Tiare Jennings also collected her 29th RBI at the WCWS, giving her the most of any individual and yes, she has another year.
A win on Thursday would give Oklahoma its third straight national championship. Kathryn Sandercock will almost undoubtedly get the ball for Florida State to try and continue its season. We will find out if the Noles can survive or the Sooners will continue their dynasty at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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