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Gutsy performance by Kelly Maxwell lifts OU to WCWS championship series

Bob Przybyloby:Bob Przybylo06/04/24

BPrzybylo

OKLAHOMA CITY – That’s not how the script was supposed to be written for Kelly Maxwell and OU softball.

Transferring from Oklahoma State to the Sooners, it was about Maxwell finally getting the chance at a national championship. It’s been about the quest for four in a row for OU, but it’s the final shot for Maxwell to get her first.

But after allowing three home runs, five earned runs in the initial three innings? It definitely didn’t look like it was going to happen.

However, it did. Somehow, someway. Maxwell’s career isn’t wrapped up just yet. On a day where she didn’t have her best performance, she certainly had her gutsiest outing.

Maxwell threw 148 pitches in eight drama-filled innings to help the Sooners to a thrilling 6-5 victory against Florida on Tuesday afternoon at OGE Field at Devon Park.

The win puts OU in the Women’s College World Series championship series against No. 1 Texas. The best-of-three begins 7 p.m. Wednesday night on ESPN.

Not sure Maxwell’s arm could even be called upon Wednesday, but she did all the lifting that was necessary Tuesday.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am for Kelly Maxwell right now,” head coach Patty Gasso said. “I don’t think she’s out to try to prove anything, but she knows she’s a good pitcher. When she was getting roughed up a little bit, I think she just kind of — when she got with Jen Rocha, it was kind of like something in her that’s like, stop. I got to stop this. I need to be more competitive.

“You could feel it coming out, and we could feel it as a team. I think that kind of helped rally the offense as well. They’d score, we’d score one, they’d score two. Back and forth. It’s really frustrating when you’re on that side, but you got to just trust your pitcher and your pitching coach. We all do.

“The fact that Kelly is going to be playing in a national championship game is one of the highlights of our season.”

Maxwell allowed a two-run home run in the top of the first. It happened again in the second. Then a solo shot in the third. Snap out of it.

She did just that and went to work.

“I sat down with Coach Rocha and we had a conversation of kind of what was going on, kind of what needed to happen,” Maxwell said. “I think I took it personally, honestly. Knew this team was going to fight back. I was going to try to keep ’em in as long as we could.”

The rest of the way? Maxwell gave up just one hit in the final five innings. All eight of her strikeouts came after the five earned runs.

It was another throwback performance. Not in the sense of a pitcher’s duel or 1-0 battle, but a pitcher who simply refused to quit.

Maxwell looked fresher for pitch No. 148 than she did during the first innings of work. She kept the vaunted Florida offense at bay and let the OU offense muster its rally.

Little by little until the big bomb when Jayda Coleman hit the walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth to send OU to the finals.

That Maxwell story? Hey, it gets one more chapter. It needs one more chapter. It’s going to happen against the Longhorns in the championship series. Maxwell gets to write it one more time.

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