Top-seeded Oklahoma makes quick work of Arkansas in Norman Regional
NORMAN, Okla. -- Top-seeded Oklahoma punched its ticket to the super regionals with a 14-1, five-inning win against Arkansas on Sunday afternoon in the Norman Regional. It's the fourth season in a row and the sixth time in the last seven years that the Sooners have advanced past the regional stage.
The Sooners (50-4), who won their three regional games by a combined score of 41-6, will face former Big 12 member Texas A&M in the super regionals next weekend.
"I'm very proud of this team and their performance [Sunday]," Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. "They came out ready to play. Our goal was to make it one game. That was our focus and our commitment, and we were locked in and ready to go. I'm very proud of them."
The Sooners tallied 11 hits in the win, but also took advantage of four Arkansas (36-20) errors. Of the team's 14 runs, only five were earned.
"I think that's what they see, is an opening," Gasso said. "The [Sooners are] a big momentum team. They won't say that they know they're good, but they know they're good. They love to pass the bat, or what we call pass the torch. They love to keep the inning alive and respond with two outs."
Oklahoma opened the scoring in the first inning when sophomore Lauren Chamberlain was hit by the opening pitch and then stole her team-leading 14th base of the season. Fellow sophomore Georgia Casey followed with a sharp single to left center to score Chamberlain.
Arkansas threatened in the bottom of the inning, getting two runners on second and third with no outs, but senior Keilani Ricketts came back with consecutive strikeouts. A walk filled the bases, but Ricketts then got Andrea Sullivan to ground out to Casey at second base for the final out.
Both teams put runners in scoring position in the second, but the Sooners left the bases loaded, while the Razorbacks stranded a runner on second.
The game turned in the third inning on a defensive miscue by Arkansas. With two outs and two on, sophomore Callie Parsons lifted a fly ball to right field that was dropped by Amanda Geile. The error allowed junior Brittany Williams and senior Jessica Shults to score to make it 3-0 for Oklahoma.
Senior Brianna Turang followed Parsons with a walk and Chamberlain delivered the big blow with a three-run home run to center field. It was her 27th this year and 57th of her career, passing former Sooner Amber Flores for second-most in OU career history.
"Softball is a game of momentum, and we know that," Chamberlain said. "As the season has been going on we've gotten better at knowing when we can capitalize on errors and knowing when the game changes. I think our aggressive style allows us to do that as well."
The Sooners kept the momentum in the third inning as senior pitcher Michelle Gascoigne came on in relief to stop a threat.
"It's something that I've done my whole career, and I prepare for it, especially going into these big weekends," Gascoigne said.. "Just knowing that Keilani [Ricketts] might need some help or even that we just might want to change things up a bit, so I really like the role of coming in to relieve."
Gascoigne ended with the win, throwing the final 2.1 innings. Her lone hit allowed was a home run, and she added three strikeouts to improve to 18-3.
Sophomore Shelby Pendley led off the inning with a solo home run to right center, her 20th of the season. Two batters later, Williams doubled to left center and Shults followed with a double of her own to make it 8-0.
Freshman Erin Miller came on to run for Shults and scored on the next batter as Destinee Martinez reached safely on a throwing error by Navarro at shortstop. Later in the frame, the bases were loaded with two outs, thanks to a single by junior Javen Henson and an intentional walk to Chamberlain. A fielding error by second baseman Sierra Bronkey allowed sophomore Georgia Casey to reach safely and score the 10th run of the game.
Pendley came to bat for the second time in the inning and delivered a single to center field to drive in two runs and make it 12-0.
After a solo home run by Arkansas' Devon Wallace in the top of the fourth, OU countered with a two-run homer from Henson. It was her first of the year and the 10th of her career.