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Horning: On elimination Saturday, Juarez comes full circle in the circle and it was amazing

  • 2 min to read

OKLAHOMA CITY — Bottom of the fifth, two out, Rylie Boone at the plate, pinch hitting for Jana Johns.

She bounced a bunt to UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia, who would have thrown her out at first base had somebody been covering it, yet nobody was because Bruin second baseman Anna Vines fell over her own feet trying to get to the bag and was just back to her feet as Boone arrived.

Nothing came of it.

Boone was called out for leaving first base too quickly trying to steal second, leaving teammate Nicole Mendes standing in the left-handed batter’s box.

The thing about Saturday night at Hall of Fame Stadium, where Oklahoma topped UCLA 10-3 to keep going at the Women’s College World Series?

Those two odd plays, Vines falling and Boone leaving too soon, might have been just the 23rd and 24th craziest things to happen over the 6 1/2 innings the Sooners and Bruins played.

All the rest, from UCLA’s Delanie Wisz refusing to stroll home in the third inning, whether OU center fielder Jayda Coleman had pulled off an amazing diving catch or not, to the player we’ll soon gush over picking up a bunt that was heading foul, playing it into a single, none of it was as improbable as the Sooner story in the circle.

Giselle Juarez.

It’s indescribable.

But we’ll try.

In a sport that requires dominant pitching to win it all or approach winning it all, Juarez was that pitcher two years ago.

Paige Parker was the one in 2016, Parker and Paige Lowary were dual No. 1’s the next season, national championship years both.

The one after that, it was Parker again. The Sooners didn’t reach the championship series, but Parker offered her finest moment, a pair of two-hit shutouts, to keep OU going on elimination Saturday.

The next season, Juarez.

OU didn’t win it all, but the Sooners played for it and Juarez was their ace.

Her earned run average was 1.39, she went 28-4, threw 186 1/3 innings, struck out 269, walked only 38 and opponents hit .151 against her.

Two seasons later, she had not been herself following arm surgery two Marches ago.

She entered the World Series with a 2.61 ERA after pitching only 121 innings. Her 18-1 record sparkled only because she had the good fortune to play for the most potent offensive team in the history of the sport.

She was so-so against Morgan State and Wichita State two weeks ago and didn’t pitch at all against Washington last week

Saturday?

Saturday, against Georgia and UCLA, she threw 10 1/3 innings, struck out 14, walked two, gave up six hits and a grand total of zero runs.

Against the Bruins, she entered two batters after Rachel Garcia had gone deep to give UCLA a 3-0 lead and one batter after Wisz followed with a double.

She stranded Wisz and Kinsley Washington, too, whose heading-foul bunt she fielded into a single.

She allowed a bunt single to Briana Perez in the fourth inning and stranded her. She faced runners at the corners with only one out in the fifth and got out of it. She retired the last seven Bruins she faced.

Though she did not pick up a bat, it’s a good bet she had plenty to do with what OU did at the plate, too.

Watch your forgotten ace find herself at the World Series, shut out one team early and shut down another one late, and it’s bound to inspire.

How else to explain Mackenzie Donihoo, who’d hit six home runs all season but closed Saturday with nine?

One, sure.

But three?

Great happens in sports all the time. Unbelievable happens a fair amount, too.

But this?

This was beyond.

Reclamation and redemption and fearlessness and dominance and, oh yeah, it happened at the World Series.

Maybe she can’t win two more today. She’s not bionic. But if she can get some help, maybe one more and start over Monday.

It could happen.

Given Saturday, anything can.

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