Harding leads Florida State past Oklahoma 8-4 in WCWS Game 1

Florida State third baseman Sydney Sherrill, left, tags out Oklahoma’s Nicole Mendes (11) during the second inning of Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series finals on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kalei Harding homered and drove in four runs, leading Florida State past No. 1 seed Oklahoma 8-4 in the opener of the Women’s College World Series championship series on Tuesday night.

Sydney Sherrill added a two-run single during a five-run fourth inning for the Seminoles (49-11-1), who need a victory on Wednesday or Thursday to win their second NCAA title in four years.

Kaley Mudge had three hits for Florida State, increasing her WCWS total to a record-tying 13.

Seminoles ace Kathryn Sandercock got the final four outs for the save, stopping a rally by Oklahoma, which scored two runs in the fourth inning and two in the sixth after falling behind 7-0.

Kinzie Hansen and Nicole Mendes homered on consecutive pitches and Mackenzie Donihoo had a two-run single for the Sooners (54-4).

Harding opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the third inning off Oklahoma starter Nicole May, who allowed seven runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Harding’s two-run double in the fourth made it 4-0, and Sherrill — who hails from nearby Moore, Oklahoma — drove in two more in the five-run inning.

Sherrill also threw out Oklahoma’s Tiare Jennings at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning to preserve the Seminoles’ four-run advantage.

The Seminoles got an unusual insurance run in the seventh. Josie Muffley was held up late at third on Harding’s single, and Anna Shelnutt was thrown out while scrambling back to second. Muffley broke for the plate and was tagged out, but an obstruction call gave Florida State the run.

Muffley stayed on the ground briefly after the collision at the plate before getting up and leaving the field. She was replaced in the bottom of the inning.

Seminoles starter Danielle Watson allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings to get the win.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.