NORMAN, Okla. -- A rain delay of more than two and a half hours didn’t slow down the Oklahoma momentum as the seventh-seeded Sooners (49-10) got one step closer to returning to the Women’s College World Series for the fourth year in a row after defeating No. 10 Tennessee (45-11) in Game 1 of the Norman Super Regional Friday night 8-1.
With a potent offense behind her, sophomore Kelsey Stevens shined in the circle for the Sooners. The right-hander tied a season high with 11 strikeouts, accomplishing the feat for the fourth time this year, as she ran her record to 36-7 on the year.
Stevens allowed just one run in the third inning as she yielded six hits with no walks. She struck out at least one batter in each of the first six innings, including three in the first, and two in the second, fourth and sixth innings. Of the 11 strikeouts, nine were swinging.
The offense did its part by scoring at least eight runs for the fifth consecutive game, starting with one in the first inning.
Senior Destinee Martinez led off and walked on four pitches. After a groundout moved Martinez to second, junior Shelby Pendley drew a walk of her own to put a pair of runners on. Two batters later, junior Georgia Casey pulled a single through the left side and Martinez hustled home without even a throw to give the Sooners a 1-0 lead.
The lead doubled to 2-0 in the second.
Junior Callie Parsons led off by lacing a double to left center over the head of Haley Tobler. A textbook sacrifice bunt from senior Javen Henson advanced Parsons to third base, and the small-ball tactic paid off as sophomore Erin Miller lined a sacrifice fly to center field to plate Parsons.
With two runners on, two outs and sophomore Whitney Ellis facing a 2-2 count in the bottom of the third, lightning prompted a delay. Rain followed and the game was postponed for two hours and 37 minutes. When play resumed, Ellis lined out to shortstop to end the lengthy at-bat.
Tennessee cut into the Sooners’ lead in the fourth inning as Lexi Overstreet just missed a three-run homer, settling for an RBI single off the top of the wall in right field. Overstreet’s single put runners on the corners with just one out. Though the tying run was just 60 feet away, Stevens wasn’t fazed as she struck out Cheyanne Tarango swinging and Tobler looking.
Like they’ve done nearly all postseason, OU had an answer for when the opposing team scored. In the six innings that OU was able to bat after an opponent scored entering Friday, the team responded with runs on five occasions.
Parsons led off the fourth by reaching on a fielder error by second baseman Megan Geer. Henson laid down her second sacrifice bunt of the game to push Parsons to second, while a walk to Miller put runners on first and second for Martinez. She hit a grounder to Madison Shipman at shortstop, but Shipman’s throw was low and Tarango dropped it for an error at first base.
With the bases loaded, junior Lauren Chamberlain dropped a single into shallow center field to enable Parsons to score and give Oklahoma a 3-1 lead.
One inning later, senior Brittany Williams led off the frame with a monster home run to center field. It was her 13th of the season and the 38th of her career, putting her eighth on the OU career home run list.
Leading 4-1, Oklahoma broke the game open with a four-run sixth inning thanks to a pair of Tennessee errors.
With one out, Miller reached safely as Geer committed her second error. Martinez then reached on another error, this time a throwing mistake by Tennessee starter Ellen Renfroe. Miller took third on the play and scored on the next at-bat as she teamed with Martinez on a double steal.
Chamberlain came up next with one on and stroked her third hit of the game, an RBI double to the wall in left center to make it 6-1. Pendley followed and despite falling behind 0-2, she rocketed a two-run homer to left field. It was Pendley’s team-best 17th home run of the season and her 58th career shot.