The WCWS began with a bang after a shocking upset.
Odicci Alexander and JMU Capture the Hearts of America
Everyone loves a good Cinderella story. On May 30th, the James Madison University Dukes won the Columbia Super Regional and punched their ticket to Oklahoma City for their first trip to the Women’s College World Series. The Dukes’ success did not necessarily come out of left field as they had already established themselves as one of the best non-Power 5 softball programs—boasting eight CAA Championships—but a non-Power 5 team had not made it to the WCWS in six seasons. Despite these barriers, the Dukes’ 39–2 record was the second-best of the teams entering the WCWS, only topped by their first-round opponent, No. 1 Oklahoma.
Many feared that the Oklahoma Sooners may make JMU’s fairytale story a brief one. Although the Dukes had one of the nation’s best pitchers, Oddici Alexander, in their corner, Oklahoma’s offense was not only the best in the nation but maybe one of the best in NCAA history. Hits, runs, batting average—you name it and the Sooners are most likely leading the nation in it. With an offense that boasted both the National Player of the Year and the AP Freshman of the Year, this matchup was more than David vs. Goliath, it was more like David vs. ‘the nine Goliath’s that made up OU’s batting order.’
Alexander was quickly thrust into the national spotlight after she quieted the Oklahoma offense, holding them to only six hits and three runs, OU’s lowest total of the season. The Dukes managed to pull off a major upset, beating the Sooners 4–3 in their first WCWS game. Alexander’s performance made it clear that as long as she was on the field, the clock was not going to strike midnight on the Dukes anytime soon.
Alexander managed to top her performance against the Sooners by only allowing one run against No. 5 Oklahoma State in the Dukes’ 2–1 victory. With the win, JMU made history and became the first unseeded team in history to open the WCWS with back-to-back wins and the first unseeded team to ever advance to the national semifinals where they would once again have to face the Sooners.
The Sooners Circle the Wagons
Oklahoma seemed to take their shocking loss to JMU personally. In a season that began by terrorizing opposing pitchers—scoring 29 runs in their season opener against UTEP—the Sooners offense was halted for the first time all season at the most inopportune of times. Oklahoma could only muster up three runs against the unseeded JMU Dukes in the opening game of the WCWS, and the top team in the country suddenly found themselves in the loser’s bracket of the WCWS.
Instead of wallowing in defeat, the Sooners came out swinging against Georgia. Senior Jocelyn Alo set the school record for home runs by notching her 31st homer of the season in the sixth inning to force a run-rule victory for Oklahoma. By the end of the game, the Sooners had increased their season home run total to 150,, eight short of the NCAA record.
The fireworks continued when the top-ranked Sooners faced No. 2 UCLA. The Bruins managed to jump out to a 3–0 lead early, eerily similar to what happened to the Sooners in their first game against JMU, but this time around Oklahoma was able to rally. The Sooners tallied 10 runs against the second-best team in the country to set up a rematch with the Dukes in the semifinal.
Oklahoma needed to beat JMU twice to advance to the WCWS Championship for the second consecutive year. The Dukes only needed to stun the Sooners one more time to continue their Cinderella run.
In the sixth inning of the semifinal game between JMU and Oklahoma, the Sooners once again found themselves being contained by Oddici Alexander. OU had been limited to four hits in the game and once again found themselves tied 3–3 with the Dukes. It was the Sooner’s catcher Kinzie Hanson who would give Oklahoma the lead with a two-run home run in the seventh inning. OU would get their revenge with a 6–3 victory, but they would need to get the best of Alexander once more to make their return to the WCWS Finals Series.
The final matchup between JMU and Oklahoma would be Odicci Alexander’s fourth consecutive start for the Dukes, and everyone knew that JMU would go as far as her arm could take them. Well, Alexander’s arm finally fell off in the fifth inning of what would be the Dukes’ final game. After JMU established a 1–0 lead in the first inning, the Oklahoma offense began to heat up in the fourth inning, rallying to take a 2–1 lead. Then the Sooners took advantage of a tired pitcher and tacked on four more runs at the bottom of the fifth.
Alexander was pulled from the game after throwing her 1,057th of the NCAA Tournament, and the final of her college career. As she made her way to the dugout she received a standing ovation from the Oklahoma City crowd.
Despite losing their final game 7–1, it is clear that no matter who wins this year’s WCWS, the magical run of the James Madison University Dukes and the pitcher who led them will never be forgotten.
Oklahoma will face Florida St. in the WCWS Finals Series. Florida State won Game 1 and Game 2 is slated for Wednesday, June 9 on ESPN. If necessary, the Sooners and Seminoles will play a deciding Game 3 on Thursday, June 10 on ESPN.