By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY — It wasn’t pretty, but Oklahoma kept its historic win streak alive.
Former Long Beach St. Anthony standout Tiare Jennings doubled in the ninth inning to score two runs, leading the top-seeded Sooners past No. 9 Stanford, 4-2, on Monday for a shot at their third straight Women’s College World Series title.
Oklahoma increased its Division I record to 51 consecutive victories. The Sooners advanced to play No. 3 Florida State, which beat No. 4 Tennessee 5-1 on Monday night, for the national championship. Oklahoma (59-1) is trying to become the first program since UCLA in 1988-90 to win three consecutive titles. The best-of-three championship series, a rematch of the 2021 series, starts Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN).
“We win a lot, and that’s fabulous,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “But sometimes I think we’re so used to taking it for granted, and this means a lot. This means a lot. To get to the championship game means a lot.”
Stanford (47-15) reached the WCWS for the third time and the first since 2004.
Because Oklahoma was unbeaten in the double-elimination bracket, the Sooners needed just one win on Monday, while Stanford would have needed two to advance. Oklahoma handed Stanford both of its World Series losses.
Stanford’s Kylie Chung, a former Westlake High standout, hit a two-run homer in the first, the only runs the Sooners have allowed at the World Series. Jayda Coleman’s solo homer tied the score at 2-2 in the third.
Grace Lyons doubled to start off Oklahoma’s ninth. Coleman came up with Lyons on third base and with two outs and was intentionally walked. With two strikes, Jennings – celebrating her 21st birthday – sent NiJaree Canady’s pitch into the gap in right center to bring Lyons and Coleman home.
Coleman and Jennings are both first-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Americans. Gasso said Jennings took advantage of an ideal situation, despite being 0 for 4 before her final at-bat.
“She’s one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen,” Gasso said. “So coaches – all coaches pick their poison. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Tiare has this ability to get locked in like nobody I’ve ever seen as well. Her swing just looked kind of easy. It looked pretty free and easy and ran right into it at the right time.”
Stanford coach Jessica Allister believes walking Coleman to face Jennings was the right move.
“I think we’d make the same decision again,” she said. “Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and it didn’t end up the way that we wanted it to, but we liked the matchup. At this point, you can’t be careful. You’ve got to trust your gut and go with the best decision.”
Oklahoma’s Jordy Bahl put the Cardinal down in order in the ninth.
Bahl, who got the win, gave up four hits in four innings in relief of starter Nicole May and did not allow a run. Bahl is 3-0 at the World Series and has not allowed a run in 14-2/3 innings.
Canady entered the day with the most innings pitched of any player at the World Series. She threw a one-hitter against Washington on Sunday to lift the Cardinal into the semifinals, then threw 85 pitches against Oklahoma. The NFCA freshman of the year had a 1.12 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 18-2/3 innings at the World Series.
“I think that I can play at this level,” she said. “Coming in (into the World Series), like I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know – we get Oklahoma right off the bat. And now I know like I can, for the most part, I can pitch to any team in the nation.”
Canady and the Cardinal want more next year.
“We got here,” she said. “That was a taste, and now we’re going to come back hungry.”
Florida State 5, Tennessee 1: Florida State is back in a familiar position. Kathryn Sandercock and Makenna Reid combined for five innings of scoreless relief to help the third-seeded Seminoles (58-9) stifle Tennessee in the second semifinal on Monday night.
Sandercock, the Seminoles’ veteran ace, allowed one hit and struck out four in three innings to claim her 10th save of the year. Reid, a freshman, gave way to Sandercock after allowing one hit in two innings. She claimed the win to improve to 13-0 this season.
This is more like it for Florida State. Last year, the Seminoles were the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament but lost in regionals. Now, they are in the championship series for the third time in the past five finals.
“It’s just every athlete’s dream to end their career in a national championship game,” Sandercock said. “I always knew that we could do it, so I’m just really, really, really proud of the team today. Like, I just don’t think that words could even express how happy. I’m just so elated to be playing one more day and getting to put the jersey on one more time.”
Tennessee’s Zaida Puni hit a solo shot off Mack Leonard in the first to open the scoring. It was her sixth NCAA tournament home run in nine games.
Florida State’s Michaela Edenfield answered with a solo home run in the second. Bethaney Keen’s first homer of the season pushed the Seminoles’ lead to 2-1 in the third and Jahni Kerr’s RBI single in the fifth pushed Florida State’s lead to 3-1.
Tennessee starter Payton Gottshall took the loss. Lady Vols ace Ashley Rogers entered the game in the fifth, but Hallie Wacaser’s two-run shot off her in the sixth made it 5-1. It was Wacaser’s fourth homer of the year.
The home runs by Keen and Wacaser were examples of how Florida State gets contributions from various sources and finds ways to win.
“The ultimate goal when you get here is can you have everything firing on all cylinders,” Florida State coach Lonni Alameda said. “There’s no book written on how to do that. You have to go from your previous experiences, your upperclassmen, what you think they can consistently bring, how you can grow your young ones.”
Tennessee’s Kiki Milloy, a first-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American, was held hitless in four at-bats after being one of the best performers in the tournament. The Lady Vols (51-10) left seven runners on base.
“We had some opportunities,” Tennessee coach Karen Weekly said. “You kind of knew if they got to a point where they had a lead, you were going to see Sandercock. She’s very good. She’s one of the best pitchers. You saw why tonight.”