The No. 14 Texas Longhorns are still in contention with the Women’s College World Series title thanks to a 5-0 victory over the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowgirls on Monday in Oklahoma City, keyed by a three-run home run by designated player Courtney Day and a dominant performance by left-hander Estelle Czech, who went the distance.
It was the first win for the Longhorns against the Cowgirls after four losses earlier this season.
A leadoff single by Oklahoma State quickly put Czech under pressure as the Cowgirls used a sacrifice bunt to move the runner into scoring position. Czech struck out the next batter, issued a full-count walk to former Longhorn Miranda Elish, and then fielded a ground ball herself to get out of the inning.
Fighting the sun in the second, Texas center fielder Bella Dayton made an outstanding running catch just short of the wall in center field to keep the leadoff batter from reaching base in a second straight frame. With the help from her defense, Czech was able to record a 1-2-3 inning.
doesn't resonate with @b3lladayton— NCAA Softball (@NCAASoftball) June 6, 2022
@espn#WCWS x @TexasSoftball pic.twitter.com/lhwCH2zKKI
The Longhorns offense started to heat up in the second inning with a one-out double into the left-center gap by catcher Mary Iakopo and a bloop single by first baseman JJ Smith to put runners on first and third. Smith advanced to second on double steal attempt as pinch runner Alyssa Popelka initially looked to be caught in a run down, but Oklahoma State didn’t cover third and Popelka was able to get back safely. To cap a nine-pitch at bat, Day hit a moonshot into the bleachers in left field for a three-run home run, her second home run in the last two games.
Day sends it into the evening sky to put the Horns on the board first! ☄️— NCAA Softball (@NCAASoftball) June 6, 2022
@espn#WCWS x @TexasSoftball pic.twitter.com/xnc2YGy5T9
A leadoff double by second baseman Janae Jefferson in the third inning once again put pressure on Oklahoma State pitcher Morgan Day. After Jefferson advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, she opted not to challenge the arm of Chyenne Factor, ultimately the right decision as Factor made a strong throw to the plate. Day was able to escape without allowing another run when shortstop Alyssa Washington lined out to second base.
In the circle, Czech was outstanding through the fifth inning in her first appearance against Oklahoma State, allowing only three hits with two walks and three strikeouts and stranding a runner on third after a two-out triple in the fifth. At that point, the Cowgirls were 0-for-7 with runners on base.
Meanwhile, Day retired nine Texas batters in a row as the Longhorns were unable to provide any insurance runs for Czech.
Czech issued a four-pitch walk to Elish with one out in the sixth, but responded with a good pitch to third baseman Sydney Pennington to induce a 5-4-3 double play, another indication of just how much the Texas defense has grown since some massive struggles early in the season.
5⃣-4⃣-3⃣ = 2⃣!!— Texas Softball (@TexasSoftball) June 7, 2022
We're firing on all cylinders right now as another late-game double play backs up @estelleczech!
M6 - OSU 0 - TEXAS 3 pic.twitter.com/giZFYrko1t
Third baseman Mia Scott led off the sixth with a bunt single and then stole second base. And then the insurance run finally came on a good bunt by Dayton, forcing an errant throw into right field that allowed Scott to score and Dayton to advance to second. Dayton moved to third on a groundout to third base and catcher Mary Iakopo brought her home with a drive deep into right field for a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0.
With one final chance to get to Czech, an Oklahoma State pinch hitter singled through the left side of the Texas infield to open the seventh inning. A flyout to left field in foul territory marked another empty at bat for the Cowgirls with a runner on base, but Czech hit the next batter to put two runners on before inducing a 5-3 double play to end it.
Texas will face Oklahoma State once again at about 8:40 p.m. Central on ESPN for the right to face Oklahoma in the finals.