Wodach's two-strike bunt starts four-run rally, landing OU in WCWS Final

OU's Lea Wodach bunts the ball during the Sooners' game against Oregon, Sunday, June 4, 2017, at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Softball, particularly at the Women's College World Series, is a game of inches, and Oregon catcher Gwen Svekis should have let Lea Wodach's bunt roll a few more.

Facing a 2-2 count with no outs and her team down two runs, Wodach tried to spark a rally. The bunt didn't go as planned, dropping straight down into the lefty batter's box. It may have been foul anyway, leading to an automatic out, but a few more bounces and there wouldn't have been a question.

Svekis couldn't wait. Shielding the umpire's view, she picked it and fired a throw over first base and into right field. With one play, OU had all the momentum it needed to pull out a 4-2 come-from-behind WCWS semifinal win against the No. 3 Ducks Sunday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

“I've made that play a thousand times in my life, and I'll probably make it a thousand more,” Svekis said. “Fair or foul, I can make that play.”

Wodach shook her head in the postgame press conference when asked if the bunt was a called play, forcing OU coach Patty Gasso to joke, “Yes, you were safe. I did call it. If you're out, I don't.” It was simply just a .165-hitter trying to make something happen. When Wodach dropped her bat, she was concerned she hadn't done enough.

“It was supposed to be a little more out [in the field],” Wodach said. “You're not really thinking about it because it doesn't really matter. If it goes foul, I'm out, so I'm running down the line as hard as I can, and no, coach did not call that.”

The Sooners took advantage, following up the defensive miscue with an infield single by Kelsey Arnold and a fielder's choice by Nicole Mendes, scoring their first run. Mendes chopped a grounder to shortstop and instead of just taking the out at first, Oregon's Nikki Udria threw home trying to get speedy Raegan Rogers, running for Wodach. Rogers was safe without a tag attempt.

Caleigh Clifton bunted Arnold and Mendes to second and third. Then, Shay Knighten plated both with a single to right, giving OU a 3-2 lead.

“To see these guys come in clutch late in the game when we were down shows this is a setting that they love,” Gasso said. “They're not intimidated by it. They're not playing afraid to lose. They're playing to win. And that's really been our difference for probably the last two months.”

Paige Parker became the second pitcher ever to win eight consecutive starts at the Women's College World Series, joining Arizona's Jennie Finch, but reliever Paige Lowary did the postgame television interview by her side. Parker, who allowed two earned runs on five hits and no walks with four strikeouts in five innings, knew she couldn't have done it without her closer.

The poorly-kept secret is out, Lowary's speed makes a perfect compliment to the spin-centric Parker. The Missouri transfer touched 75 miles per hour Sunday, some extra oomph courtesy of softball's biggest stage.

“I think adrenaline just kicked in as I was trying to hit my spot,” Lowary said. “I wasn't really concerned with speed, but I just happened to be that fast I guess.”

OU will need that and even more against No. 1 Florida in the WCWS Final, a best-of-three series, starting at 6 p.m. Monday. Gasso put it simply, “We're a 10-seed facing a one-seed.”

But with the way the ball is rolling, the defending national champion Sooners don't look like an easy out for anyone.

John McKelvey

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jmckelvey@normantranscript.com

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