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Jayda Coleman with a swing for the ages, OU advances to WCWS championship series

Bob Przybyloby:Bob Przybylo06/04/24

BPrzybylo

OKLAHOMA CITY – She has been called one of the chaos coordinators for OU softball. But through the better part of this Women’s College World Series, senior Jayda Coleman had been rather quiet.

One swing, though, can change that in a hurry.

And one swing did do just that. Coleman took out a week’s worth of frustration with one walk-off opposite field home run in the bottom of the eighth to give OU a thrilling, memorable 6-5 victory against Florida on Tuesday at OGE Field at Devon Park.

The second-ranked Sooners will get a chance for their fourth straight national championship. The best-of-three championship series against No. 1 Texas begins Wednesday night.

But Tuesday afternoon, simply put, was a game for the ages. No hyperbole to that one. And Coleman finished it with a swing that OU fans will remember for a long time.

“I had been a little frustrated all game,” Coleman said. “Obviously, I just want to do anything to help my team. I wasn’t really able to do that. I was taking first pitch ’cause the other time I got jammed and popped up. Was going to take my time, really get a pitch that I wanted to see. Saw middle. I knew I needed to stay through the ball.

“Going around the bases, I lost it, just started crying. Just the presence that I felt with God, it was incredible. Incredible feeling.”

A feeling very few would have believed possible just a couple of hours before. OU trailed 2-0 in the top of the first and then 5-2 after three innings. But it’s going to take something next-level special to take the crown away from OU.

Senior pitcher Kelly Maxwell, after allowing three home runs in three innings, was as fresh as it gets in throwing 148 pitches in eight innings. Looking more dominant in innings seven and eight compared to the initial ones.

Maxwell kept OU alive, giving the offense a chance to make something happen.

Others stepped up, no question. Like Cydney Sanders with a two-run home run. Or Ella Parker getting off the mat for the game-tying RBI single in the sixth after being knocked out of the game earlier. Parker also had a two-run homer.

But on a 2-1 count with zero outs in the bottom of the eighth, it was time for Coleman to write another chapter to her incredible OU story.

“She would be a phenomenal softball coach,” head coach Patty Gasso said. “So she knows how to coach herself. Sometimes she has a list of I’m going to bunt, maybe I’ll slap, chop. I don’t know. It goes on and on. She has so many ideas.

“I didn’t ask for a home run. I didn’t think it was going to go that far either. It was really close, but Jayda has been really fighting to help this team. She gets really frustrated when she doesn’t. It does affect us a little bit. Did a great thing last night. Brought the team together and kind of apologized for stepping away from them. I felt her ownership, becoming a woman, just stepping up for this team today.”

Stepping up for the team, rounding the bases and letting go. Mobbed by her teammates, there was a long embrace between Coleman and Gasso.

The quest for the fourth straight championship continues.

“Throughout the game, coach just kept telling me how much she believed in me,” Coleman said. “I felt like I kind of kept letting her down in a way, letting this team down in a way. I was doing things I wouldn’t really normally do. Just to be able to hug her in that moment. I’m not really sure what she said. I felt like I was crying into my mom’s shoulder in that moment. Such relief.”

Relief and celebration.

OU and Texas went 2-2 against each other this season. The Longhorns took two of three in Austin two months ago. The Sooners took down No. 1-ranked Texas in the Big 12 championship last month.

Time to settle it all one last time before both programs head to the SEC next season.

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