Oklahoma routs Duke at WCWS with eye on college softball 4-peat

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kinzie Hansen delivered once again.

Oklahoma softball’s queen of clutch came up with another big moment, delivering a two-run home run in the third inning to help lift the second-seeded Sooners to a come-from-behind run-rule win over Duke Thursday at the Women’s College World Series.

The Sooners beat the Blue Devils 9-1 in six innings at Devin Park as they begin their quest for an unprecedented fourth consecutive NCAA Division I softball championship.

Hansen drove in another run in the fourth on a single and finished 2-for-3 with three RBI.

The Sooners (55-6) have now won 19 consecutive NCAA Tournament games, extending their NCAA record, and have won nine consecutive WCWS games.

Hansen has repeatedly come up with big-time home runs during her career.

In last season’s super regionals, Hansen hit a game-tying, three-run homer in the seventh inning against Clemson when the Sooners were down to their last strike in the final game at Marita Hynes Field.

Two years ago against Texas in Game 2 of the WCWS Championship Series, Hansen blasted a three-run home run in the fifth inning just after Alyssa Brito’s double gave the Sooners the lead.

Hansen’s blast Thursday was her sixth career WCWS home run, tying her for third on the NCAA career list with former Oklahoma star Lauren Chamberlain.

Only Oklahoma’s Jocelyn Alo (12) and Tiare Jennings (8) have more.

Duke led 1-0 in the third when Jayda Coleman led off the inning with a single, prompting Duke to make a pitching change.

Jala Wright struck out the first two batters she faced before Hansen jumped all over Wright’s first-pitch change up to put the Sooners ahead.

Kelly Maxwell started and went 3⅔ innings, allowing just one hit and striking out four with four walks, before giving away to Kierston Deal.

Deal pitched the last 2⅓ innings to give the Sooners the victory.

Here are three more takeaways from the Sooners’ win:

Defense shines for Sooners

Oklahoma’s defense has been a strength all season.

On the biggest stage, the Sooners once again came up big, making several critical plays to keep Duke from stringing hits together.

The biggest play came in the top of the fourth, when the Blue Devils loaded the bases without the benefit of a hit.

Gisele Tapia looped one into short left-center that looked destined to score a pair of runs, but Oklahoma center fielder Jayda Coleman raced in and laid out for the diving catch to end the threat.

That was far from the only defensive highlight for the Sooners.

Earlier in the fourth, second baseman Alynah Torres made a quick turn on a slow grounder toward second to get the lead runner.

In the next inning, shortstop Tiare Jennings fielded D’Auna Jennings’ weak grounder up the middle, spun and fired to first just in time to retire the Blue Devils’ leadoff hitter.

Avery Hodge, who had replaced Torres at second, and Jennings teamed up in the sixth, with Hodge recovering from a slight bobble to quickly flip to Jennings, who fired to first to finish off the double play and end the inning.

Alynah Torres, Cydney Sanders break out

While Alynah Torres and Cydney Sanders have had productive stretches this season, both had been scuffling before appearing to begin to breakout of slumps last week against Florida State.

The duo came through in big ways for the Sooners in the opener, with each hitting two-run homers.

After Hansen’s homer in the third, Alyssa Brito drew a walk before Torres stretched the Sooners lead with a two-run home run to left.

The home run was Torres’ ninth of the season but her first since April 19 against Houston.

It had been even longer for Sanders.

Sanders blasted a no-doubt homer in the fourth after Rylie Boone led off the inning with a  bunt single.

The home run was Sanders’ first since April 16 against Tulsa.

Up next: UCLA

The Sooners now get a day off before taking on UCLA in the winner’s bracket at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The Bruins beat Alabama 4-1 in the day’s first game.

It will be the eighth meeting between Oklahoma and UCLA in the WCWS. The Sooners have faced only Alabama more in the event.

The Bruins have won four of the seven WCWS matchups with the Sooners.

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