It took five hours, 28 minutes, but it was worth every second for Oklahoma softball.
The Sooners and No. 1-seeded Florida were in a game for the ages before a Shay Knighten three-run home run in the top of the 17th inning paved the way to OU’s 7-5 victory late Monday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
No. 10th-seeded OU takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series with Game 2 at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Oklahoma City, giving the Sooners a chance to repeat as NCAA champions.
Nobody saw it going that long. OU had a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning before Florida, down to its final strike, tied the game.
OU took a 4-2 lead on a Fale Aviu two-run blast in the 12th inning only to see the Gators once again scratch two more across and eventually make it the longest game played in Championship Series history.
Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill finally cracked in the 17th when Knighten blasted the three-run bomb, OU’s third home run of the game.
“I just saw a pitch I could hit,” Knighten told ESPN after the game “Nothing bad can happen if you swing. I just had a feeling. I knew I hit it hard.”
OU pitcher Paige Lowary still had to fend off the Gators one last time, allowing one run in the bottom half before ending the game with her 139th pitch of the evening.
Not much more you could ask for from Lowary and Paige Parker for OU or from Kelly Barnhill or Delanie Gourley for Florida as all four pitches threw more than 100 pitches.
Lowary pitched 10.1 innings and actually started the game. She threw the first five innings before Parker came on in relief.
Parker threw the next 6.2 innings before Lowary came back with two outs in the bottom of the 12th and pitched the rest of the way to earn her 16th win this season.