OKLAHOMA CITY — Auburn softball coach Clint Myers and four of his players filed into the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium interview room Monday night and took their seats with a confident, upbeat demeanor that merited a cursory glance at the box score — just to make sure.
The Tigers had just lost … hadn’t they?
Indeed, Auburn’s five-game winning streak ended with Monday’s 3-2 loss to Oklahoma in the first game of the best-of-three Women’s College World Series championship series. It was just the 10th time in 68 games this season that the Tigers were held to fewer than three runs.
So why was this group smiling and at ease in a setting that typically elicits short answers and hung heads from those fresh off losses?
Because it’s not over.
“You’ve got to win two,” Myers said defiantly. “You can pick the first two; you can pick the first and last.
“We chose to pick the last two. That’s all it is.”
The championship series — Auburn’s first in program history — continues with Game Two at 7 p.m. (CT) Tuesday. If Oklahoma wins, the Sooners are national champions, but if Auburn takes Tuesday’s contest, it would force a third, winner-take-all game Wednesday night.
That’s a scenario these Tigers are somewhat familiar with.
Auburn lost the first game of its super regional against Arizona a little more than a week ago before winning Games Two and Three by a combined score of 10-2, thereby clinching its WCWS berth.
“We’ve been here before,” said senior first baseman Jade Rhodes, “so just play our game, play Auburn softball, and we’re guaranteed to win.”
But to have any chance of beating the red-hot Sooners — who extended their program-record winning streak to 31 games Monday — Auburn can’t take so long to generate runs again Tuesday.
The Tigers had trouble with Oklahoma star pitcher Paige Parker throughout most of the game Monday, managing just two hits and no runs through the first six innings. Meanwhile, Auburn senior Lexi Davis — making just her 10th start of the season — pitched well against the potent Sooners offense with one monumental exception.
OU freshman Sydney Romero’s third-inning, three-run home run — her fourth homer in six games — gave the Sooners their only runs of the contest.
“I made one bad pitch that she took advantage of,” Davis said.
Davis kept the Sooners at bay from that point forward, though, and in the top of the seventh inning, Auburn’s offense finally showed some signs of life.
Rhodes’ two-run blast over the center field fence with no outs put Auburn right back in the game, and if not for freshman pinch runner Casey McCrackin’s slight hesitation before sprinting to the plate and being tagged out on a fielder’s choice, Monday’s outcome might have been different.
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso was noncommittal when asked if Parker will start again Tuesday, but given the fact that she has thrown every pitch for the Sooners since the postseason began May 20, anyone else in the circle for Oklahoma seems unlikely.
“We’ve been against the wall plenty of times,” said senior second baseman Emily Carosone. “We know how to handle it. … The season is not over yet. We still have a game to play with and two more to win.
“They have one pitcher, and in the last inning you could see we were on her. I don’t think the next two games will take as long to score some runs for our pitchers, so I think we’re better off.
“It was a warm-up.”