The underdog run has concluded.
Pitchers Giselle ‘G’ Juarez and Breanna Macha pitched an incredible game against the two-time defending national champions, but in the end, it was Oklahoma’s four-time NFCA All-American Paige Parker, who performed just a tad bit better.
Parker, the WCWS’ Most Outstanding Player in the Sooners’ 2016 title run didn’t feel any pressure in Saturday’s elimination game. Facing a Sun Devil lineup with little postseason experience, Parker controlled the game from the start, as Oklahoma (56-4) stayed alive with a 2-0 victory over Arizona State (48-13) on Saturday in Oklahoma City.
The senior left-hander tossed a complete game shutout, allowing only two hits and striking out seven Sun Devil batters. Entering the seventh inning, Parker had retired 10 straight batters.
“I don’t think I could be more proud of them as a group. I think we had contributions from freshmen all the way up to fifth-year seniors,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “They left everything they had on the field today and that’s all I could ask for.”
Arizona State had its chances early in the game. Junior third baseman Taylor Becerra reached base twice in the first three inning, but the Sun Devils couldn’t find the clutch hit they did most of the times during the season, going 0-for-7 with runners on. Becerra ended up stranded at second twice and it’d be the closest ASU got to a run.
Juarez, the sophomore, started the game in the circle. She’d only allow one run on four hits in the game. She kept getting out of jams, but to begin the third inning it was the deep ball that got the better of her. Sooners’ freshman left fielder Jocelyn Alo added to her Division l lead in home runs with her solo shot to right field. It was Alo’s third home run against the Sun Devils after having two in the teams’ matchup in February.
The senior right-hander Macha took the field for the last time as a Sun Devil. She pitched three innings of relief of Juarez. The Sooners managed two hits and one run against the Mesa-native. A very emotional Macha talked about her time in the Maroon and Gold.
“I stepped out on to the field, just like I did at Farrington. This is going to be the last time I put on a uniform and lace up my cleats, and I still have my cleats on,” Macha said. “I don’t want to take them off. So I just think our entire team left everything we had out there. But I’m so proud to be a Sun Devil.”
Oklahoma’s senior catcher Lea Wodach came through with a two-out RBI single in the sixth for an insurance run that they didn’t end up needing with Parker’s performance.
Second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz provided excellent defense in her final game as a Sun Devil. The fifth-year senior talked about what Ford has meant to her in her final years in Tempe.
“Bringing in Coach Ford was probably the best thing that this program needed to get back on track to coming to the World Series, being one of the top elite teams again,” she said. “And it means a lot to especially our senior class, me and Bre, or their senior class, my fifth-year senior class. It means a lot because without a great leader, you’re not going to go anywhere, and she led us and she told us that we could.”
Arizona State didn’t get the results it wanted in Oklahoma City, but the experience is just one step toward Ford’s plan to getting the Sun Devils back to where they once were.
“I think obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end,” she said. “But you don’t know how to get here until you get here. They know how to get here. I think as we move forward now our next step is come here and win some ball games.”