Oklahoma buries Tenn. with five home runs in decisive super regional game
NORMAN, Okla. -- There was no weather delay Sunday, and there wasn’t any stopping the Sooners, either.
Five home runs, including two from junior Lauren Chamberlain, backed a strong performance in the circle from sophomore Kelsey Stevens as seventh-seeded Oklahoma (50-11) defeated No. 10 Tennessee (46-12) 8-2 to win the Norman Super Regional and advance OU to the Women’s College World Series for the ninth time in program history.
After weather delays that combined to take more than six hours Friday and Saturday, the field stayed dry Sunday as Oklahoma found the resolve to rally from an early deficit to clinch its fourth consecutive trip to Oklahoma City, the longest active streak in the country.
The top of the order provided the power as the five home runs tied an OU postseason record, but the bottom of the order was just as vital to the win.
The 6-7-8 hitters of sophomore Erin Miller, junior Callie Parsons and senior Javen Henson each collected two hits and combined to go 6-10 with a run scored and two runs driven in.
“The unsung hero is Erin Miller this weekend," OU head coach Patty Gasso said. "She swung very well... she made two big plays [Saturday]; offensively she’s on fire. Moved her up to the sixth spot and she kept doing her thing.
Tennessee took advantage of an Oklahoma error to score the game’s first run.
Megan Geer was hit by a pitch with one out. After a foul out, Geer got into scoring position with a stolen base. The swipe proved big as Haley Tobler’s fly ball to left field with two outs was dropped by senior Destinee Martinez, which allowed Geer to score.
Tobler ended up at second on the play but she was erased when sophomore catcher Whitney Ellis threw behind her to record her sixth pickoff of the season.
One inning later the Sooners answered the Tennessee run as Chamberlain led off the frame with a solo homer to the bleachers in left center. Two batters later, senior Brittany Williams walked and then moved to second on a groundout.
Miller then collected her second hit of the game with a chopper back up the middle. Tobler came up firing from center field, but Williams used a great head-first slide to get in around the tag of catcher Annie Aldrete to touch the plate and give OU the lead.
Tennessee tied the game up at 2-2 in the fourth when Melissa Davin lined a homer to left field with one out.
The tie did not last long though as OU took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
Martinez led off with a single to center field. Chamberlain followed with a single of her own and Tobler misplayed the ball in center field, allowing Martinez to reach third. Junior Shelby Pendley came up with runners on the corners and put down a perfectly executed squeeze bunt to allow Martinez to score.
"My first at-bat I walked and my second I just hit a ground ball so I was just thinking that I wanted to do the squeeze bunt," Pendley explained. "I told coach Gasso, 'Let’s just do a squeeze right here.' I’m very confident in my bunting even though I don’t do it that much."
That proved to be enough run support for Stevens, who improved to 37-8 to tie the OU record for wins in a season. She struck out five and allowed two runs, only one of which was earned, on three hits and two walks.
After giving up the homer to Davin in the fourth, Stevens retired 10 of the next 11 batters she faced and didn’t give up another hit until a two-out single in the seventh.
Oklahoma got an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth thanks to Henson. After being hit by a pitch in her first two plate appearances, Henson connected for her fifth home run of the season when she tagged a 1-2 pitch to left center field, giving OU a 4-2 lead.
Three more home runs in the sixth inning gave the Sooners a comfortable cushion heading into the seventh.
Chamberlain led off with her second homer of the contest, drilling an 0-1 pitch off the scoreboard in left field. The blast marked her 14th career multi-homer game and her second of the season. She now has 12 homers on the year and 72 in her career, tying for 10th in NCAA Division I history with Hawaii’s Kelly Maja (2010-13).
After a pitching change, Pendley hit a sharp single to center field. Williams then delivered a two-run homer to the bleachers in left center to make it 7-2. For the fifth time this season, Oklahoma hit back-to-back home runs as junior Georgia Casey followed Williams’ homer with a solo shot of her own.
That set the stage for the seventh inning where Pendley caught a foul out and Stevens fielded a comebacker for two quick outs. After a walk and single, Stevens recorded her fifth strikeout by fanning Rainey Gaffin to end the game.