OU Softball Uses Fast Start to Reach Regional Final

Saturday, May 21st 2016, 8:09 pm
By: News 9

Friday night saw No. 3 Oklahoma jump on Wichita State with a five-run first as the Sooners won their Regional opener. Saturday, it was a seven-run second inning that pushed OU (49-7) to the Regional final after a 9-1, five-inning victory over Ole Miss (40-21).

The Sooners now play again Sunday at 3:30 p.m. They will play whichever teams survives a pair of elimination games, first between Tulsa and Wichita State and then the winner of that contest against Ole Miss.

Saturday’s win was the 24th in a row for the Sooners, marking the second longest winning streak in program history. The all-time program record is 29 straight wins, set in 2005 from Feb. 11 to March 18.

The win over the Rebels also extended OU’s winning streak in Regional play. The Sooners have won 15 straight Regional games and 20 of 21 such contests since 2010. During the 15-game win streak, OU has outscored opponents 174-41. All-time, Oklahoma is 60-17 in Regional action.

The quick start Saturday has become the norm for the Sooners over the last two weeks.

Oklahoma has now scored at least five runs over the first two innings in each of the past five contests, and on the season has outscored teams 135-15 over the first two innings. Additionally, Oklahoma has gone 26 consecutive games without giving up a run in either the first or second inning.

Oklahoma got on the board in the first inning.

Senior Erin Miller was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. After advancing to second on a groundout, she came around to score when freshman Shay Knighten delivered an RBI single to center field.

The OU offense then exploded for seven runs in the second inning, tying for the second most runs scored in an inning this season. OU also scored seven runs in the fifth against Oklahoma State on March 30, while only an eight-run first against Western Michigan on Feb. 20 saw the Sooners score more.

Sophomore Nicole Pendley got the inning started in a big way when she pulled a 1-2 pitch up and over the bleachers in right field for her seventh homer of the season and second in the Regionals. Ole Miss got two quick outs, but sophomore Kelsey Arnold kept the inning alive with an infield single back to Rebels pitcher Madi Osias.

Miller walked on four pitches before sophomore Caleigh Clifton was hit by a pitch to fill the bases and extend her on-base streak to 30 games. Freshman Sydney Romero then drew a walk of her own, forcing in Arnold to make it 3-0 for the Sooners.

The bases-loaded walk prompted a pitching change, but Knighten greeted relief pitcher Elisa Jahnke by driving a bases-clearing double off the wall in left field to push the Sooners’ lead to 6-0. Freshman Fale Aviu was hit by a pitch, and both she and Knighten moved into scoring position on a wild pitch from Jahnke. Another wild pitch from Jahnke then allowed Knighten to score from third, making it 7-0.

Pendley batted for the second time in the inning and drew a five-pitch walk before stealing second. Jahnkne then uncorked her third wild pitch of the inning, enabling Aviu to score.

Ole Miss got on the scoreboard in the top of the third. Sophomore Paige Parker issued walks to three of the first four batters of the inning before Hailey Lunderman lifted a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Miranda Strother.

That would be the only run allowed by Parker. She struck out six and gave up one run on two hits and three walks. She’s now recorded a victory in 20 straight appearances and her record stands at 30-3 on the season.

Oklahoma got back the run it surrendered in the bottom of the fourth.

Knighten singled through the right side for her third hit of the game, matching a career high. She was then replaced by freshman pinch runner Raegan Rogers. A groundout moved Rogers to second before Pendley singled to left field to put runners on the corners. After a steal of second by Pendley, Self perfectly executed a squeeze bunt and Rogers slid in safely at the plate to make it 9-1.