OKLAHOMA CITY — Kaitlyn Thumann doubled and scored on an error in the bottom of the eighth inning as Baylor rallied from a seven-run deficit to stun Kentucky 8-7 on Saturday night in an elimination game in the Women’s College World Series.
Baylor (49-15) advanced to play fifth-seeded Florida on Sunday. The 13th-seeded Bears would have to beat Florida (52-12) twice to advance to the best-of-three finals.
Much like the regular-season basketball game between the women’s powers — which Kentucky won in four overtimes — the WCWS matchup had all sorts of twists and turns.
“Wow,” Baylor coach Glenn Moore said. “I won’t forget that one until I forget who I am. These girls are incredible. They just didn’t quit believing. For five innings, we weren’t even in the game.
“That’s why you play seven, I guess. I just thought we were facing a team destined to win and (there was) nothing we could do about it.
“Three outs to go and thinking there’s not much hope, I turned to my little boy in the dugout and said, ‘You’re not going to cry after this, are you?’ He said, ‘Cry? We’re going to win!’ I was like, “Yeah!” It was just unbelievable execution and fight from these girls.”
Kentucky (50-19) led 7-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but Kelsey Nunley (30-11) — who allowed just three hits to that point — gave up six singles during a three-run rally for Baylor. Ari Hawkins led off the seventh with a solo home run to make it 7-4 and Robin Landrith’s two-run, two-out double tied it.
In the eighth, after Thumann doubled, Hawkins bunted and Kentucky catcher Griffin Joiner’s throw to first base caromed off Hawkins into right field, allowing Thumann to score.
“Right before we entered the field (in the sixth), our seniors pulled us together and said, ‘Hey — this is not going to be our last game,’” Hawkins said.
“I just took that to heart, and I just was not going to go out losing. I just went up there and tried my hardest.”
That made a winner of Baylor reliever Heather Stearns (15-4), who allowed one hit in 2.1 innings. Stearns also recorded the win earlier Saturday as the Bears eliminated Florida State 7-2.
Ginny Carroll, Emily Gaines and Krystal Smith homered for Kentucky as the Wildcats built their 7-0 lead.
Gaines and Carroll both homered off Baylor ace Whitney Canion (31-12) during a three-run second inning, with Smith — who went 3 for 4 — smashing a double in between. Carroll’s homer ended Canion’s day.
Oregon 4, Oklahoma 2: Kailee Cuico hit a key two-run single, Janie Takeda added two RBIs and top-seeded Oregon held off defending national champion Oklahoma 4-2 on Saturday night.
Oregon (56-8-1) advanced into the semifinal round against second-seeded Alabama (52-11) and will need to beat the Crimson Tide twice on Sunday to reach the best-of-three championship series.
Oklahoma (51-13) had its bid to qualify for a third straight championship series end with the loss.
The Ducks scored three runs in the third off Oklahoma starter Shelby Pendley (2-1). Takeda doubled home Nikki Urida and Cuico followed with her single, allowing Alyssa Gillespie and Takeda to score.
Pendley’s solo homer in the fifth pulled Oklahoma with 3-2.
Oklahoma threatened in the seventh, with two on and two out, but Oregon pitcher Cheridan Hawkins (35-5) coaxed a ground ball from Brittany Williams to end the game.
Baylor 7, Florida State 2: Jordan Strickland hit a pair of two-run homers, Stearns and Canion combined on a five-hitter earlier Saturday as Baylor stayed alive.