For arguably the first time all year, the Oklahoma softball team is in serious trouble. In the first game of the Women’s College World Series, the No. 1-seed Sooners lost to No. 2-seed UCLA on Monday in stunning fashion, as UCLA scored 16 runs on 16 hits to win 16-3. Those 16 runs set a record for the most in a WCWS Championship Series game.
Tuesday night, the two teams face off again. If the Bruins win, they’ll capture their 13th national title (and first since 2010). If the Sooners rebound, they’ll force a winner-take-all Game 3 on Wednesday night.
You can watch the game live on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Before the first pitch, here are three keys to Game 2:
Will Oklahoma keep the streak (and season) alive?
It’s been 807 days since the Sooners suffered back-to-back losses. On March 17 and 18, 2017, Oklahoma dropped two straight games 3-1 to Cal Poly. Since then, they’ve played 164 games, going 152-12 for a winning percentage of 92.7.
BOOM(ER)!— espnW (@espnW) June 4, 2019
Oklahoma ties it up with a solo shot 💥 pic.twitter.com/xRss0tvnBH
So it's safe to say that when the Sooners do lose, they know how to bounce back.
After their first loss of the 2019 season, they won their next game 17-3. After their second loss, they won 41 games in a row. After their third, they pitched three straight shutouts. And after a 1-0 loss to Alabama in the first game of the WCWS, they rallied later that day to beat the Tide 7-3. Some of Oklahoma’s best softball of the year has come following a loss. Will Tuesday be any different?
Can the Bruins come out on top in a defensive battle?
UCLA has dominated in high-scoring games this year. In games where eight or more total runs are scored, UCLA is 34-1 (97.1 win percentage). Yet when there are fewer than eight runs scored, the Bruins are 21-5 (80.7 win percentage).
You can almost guarantee that the Sooners won’t allow UCLA another night at the plate like they had Monday. Oklahoma has allowed an average of 1.4 runs per game, and have only allowed more than three runs three times this year. When they hold opponents to three runs or fewer, the Sooners are 56-2 (96.6 win percentage).
Tuesday night is bound to be a much tighter contest. Will UCLA be able to back up a blowout win by squeezing out a tight victory with the championship on the line?
Oklahoma’s defense needs to return to form.
Before the WCWS, the Sooners were tied with Florida for the highest fielding percentage in Division I at .987. They averaged just 0.29 errors per game this year.
Which makes what happened Monday night extremely out of character.
In Game 1, Oklahoma had four errors. Three of those came in the third inning, and two of those led directly to runs, breaking a 1-1 tie. Oklahoma would trail for the rest of the game.
UCLA launched four home runs Monday. That doesn't allow any room for run-producing errors, and if the Sooners don't tidy up their defense, their season will end Tuesday.