OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s bats have bashed opponents all season.
But Thursday, as the top-seeded Sooners opened the Women’s College World Series against unseeded James Madison at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, a real honest-to-goodness pitcher’s duel broke out.
JMU’s Odicci Alexander kept the Sooners off balance for seven innings, except for one quick burst in the third.
Shannon Saile did the same for Oklahoma, until James Madison’s Kate Gordon drove Saile’s full-count delivery over the left-center field wall with one out in the eighth, lifting the Dukes to a stunning 4-3 upset win in the WCWS opener.
James Madison (40-2) next faces No. 5 seed Oklahoma State in the winner’s bracket Friday at 7 p.m. ET after the Cowgirls squeaked past unseeded Georgia 3-2 in Thursday’s second game.
Oklahoma State and Georgia were the only teams to beat the Sooners this season before James Madison’s stunner.
Oklahoma (50-3) now face an elimination game Saturday at Noon ET against Georgia.
After both teams scored a trio of runs in the third — on a pair of three-run home runs — Alexander and Saile settled into a groove with neither team threatening much.
Gordon hadn’t had any success in her first three at-bats off Saile, fouling out the first time before striking out her next two trips to the plate.
Gordon’s shot was just the third hit of the game for the Dukes (40-2) and the first since the third inning.
Though Alexander had been mostly dominant, the Sooners’ eighth set up as best it could, with the top of the order coming to the plate.
Tiare Jennings lined the ball off Alexander’s shin, but it bounced directly to second baseman Madison Naujokas, who threw Jennings out.
The Dukes then pitched around national home run leader Jocelyn Alo before Kinzie Hansen flied out to left-center.
Alexander then got Jayda Coleman to fly out to virtually the same spot to end the game.
Saile dropped to 17-1 on the season while Alexander improved to 17-1.
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The Dukes struck first, on Sara Jubas’ three-run homer to right center in the third off Saile.
James Madison started the inning with Lauren Bernett’s infield single to the right side on a bang-bang play before Michelle Sullivan reached on third baseman Jana Johns’ error, setting up Jubas’ blast two batters later.
OU answered in the bottom of the inning, with freshman Jennings driving a three-run home run to straightaway center on the first pitch of the at-bat after Johns and Taylon Snow started the inning with back-to-back singles.
The home run was Jennings’ 26th of the season.
But the Sooners didn’t threaten much outside of that.
They didn’t have another runner reach second until Coleman’s two-out stolen base in the sixth.
The fifth inning ended in controversial fashion after Alo grounded into an apparent fielder’s choice. Though Alo was called safe — and clearly beat the throw — she was called out after umpires gathered and determined Jennings interfered with the throw to first.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: James Madison upsets No. 1 Oklahoma in 2021 NCAA softball WCWS opener