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Women's College World Series

Oklahoma’s Shay Knighten emerges as heroine in Women’s College World Series

The sophomore first baseman blasted a 17th-inning homer to beat Florida in Game 1

When the greatest home run hitter in NCAA softball history calls you “one of the best hitters” she’s ever seen, you gotta be doing something right.

In the top of the 17th inning of Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) between No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 1 Florida, Shay Knighten cranked a three-run home run to give the Sooners a 7-4 lead. The blast to left field ultimately proved to be the difference for Oklahoma, which claimed a 7-5 win in the longest game in championship round history.

Knighten’s heroics caught the eye of former Sooners star Lauren Chamberlain, whose 95 career home runs put her atop the all-time list in Division I softball. Chamberlain, who graduated from Oklahoma in 2015, had all the praise for the clutch-hitting sophomore first baseman:

After previously going 1-for-6 at the plate, Knighten absolutely crushed a 1-2 pitch off Florida’s Kelly Barnhill, who started the game Monday night and threw seven innings before returning to the mound in the 16th.

“I was just looking to find a pitch in the zone I could hit hard,” Knighten said. “I wasn’t looking for a particular pitch. I knew she was throwing hard, so it was just, ‘Get there.’ ”

This isn’t the first time Knighten’s bat has come up big for the Sooners. In the opening round of last year’s WCWS, Knighten, then a freshman, hit a three-run walk-off homer to defeat Alabama. (She also homered in walk-off fashion against the Crimson Tide during the regular season.) Knighten delivered Oklahoma the first of six wins in the 2016 WCWS en route to winning the national championship.

Oh, and Knighten doesn’t have to hit the ball out of the park to change the shape of a game. Her fifth-inning bloop single in Oklahoma’s matchup with Oregon in this year’s WCWS semifinals served as the catalyst in getting the Sooners back to the championship round.

Knighten, a native of Buena Park, California, whose father, Kenny, played baseball at the University of Southern California and whose older sister, MJ, played for Nebraska, definitely has a clutch gene in her DNA.

The Sooners, who can win the title with a victory in Game 2 on Tuesday night, hope Knighten keeps serving up that #BlackGirlMagic this series.

Aaron Dodson is an associate editor at The Undefeated. Often mistaken for Aaron Dobson, formerly of the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals, he was one letter away from being an NFL wide receiver.