After a thrilling comeback on Saturday to beat Texas A&M, the Oklahoma Sooners decided to remove most of the drama on Sunday.
The Sooners got contributions across the board on Sunday, as they advanced to the Super Regionals with an 11-6 win over the Aggies.
The Sooners will host No. 10 seed Tennessee in Norman this coming weekend in a rematch of last year's dramatic national championship series, highlighted by the 12-inning thriller in Game 1.
"It's exciting to think back to last year but this is a new season and a new type of postseason for us," OU junior Lauren Chamberlain said. "The wins are going to look at little different; total team effort. That's what it's going to take to beat Tennessee with them coming in here."
As it was all weekend, the Sooners' offense was firing on all cylinders on Sunday, racking up 14 hits while being patient at the plate, drawing six walks. The Sooners hit three home runs, but it was the performance of the bottom third of the lineup that really helped the Sooners' cause against the Aggies.
Callie Parsons, Erin Miller and Javen Henson combined for five hits and three walks, setting the stage for the top of the lineup to deliver the big hits.
"I thought the bottom of the order really made the difference for them today," Texas A&M coach Jo Evans said. "I thought we threw pretty well against them yesterday and today, they just really made solid contact, made adjustments and hit our mistakes when we made a mistake."
The Sooners had to come back to win on Sunday for the third straight day. Nicole Morgan's two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning gave the Aggies a 2-0 right out of the gate. However, the Sooners responded with five runs in the top of the second, the biggest being Destinee Martinez' bases-loaded triple.
Oklahoma had a response every time Texas A&M scored on Sunday and that constant pressure crushed the morale of the Aggies.
"They just did a nice job of digging in and getting good looks," Evans said. "I thought they showed great resiliency today. I thought they showed good fight and some good maturity about the way they handled it."
The Sooners' offense was supported by a strong performance in the circle from Kelsey Stevens. The sophomore transfer from Stanford struggled in the first two games of the regional, but bounced back nicely on Sunday. She gave up six runs on seven hits, but walked just one batter.
"I think just my mindset. I was going to go out there and no matter what if they hit the ball, I was going to come back and get the next batter," Stevens said. "I wanted to make sure I limited the runs as much as I could for my team."
The Aggies are a veteran team that has relied on its offense all year to win games. Gasso said while Stevens may have struggled at times against Texas A&M—particularly on Saturday when she was lifted in the sixth inning—the experience she gained from this weekend would be invaluable down the road.
"I think some of those nerves went away," Gasso said. "We faced a very seasoned offensive team and she needed to face that. That team made Kelsey better. That whole weekend, it was tough on her, but it's going to make her better for next weekend."
Martinez finished the game 3-for-5 with four RBI. Georgia Casey and Lauren Chamberlain each homered for the Sooners and Parsons went 3-for-4 in the seven-spot for OU.
Morgan, Jenna Stark and Breanna Dozier all had two-run home runs for the Aggies, but no Texas A&M player had more than one hit. A&M starter Rachel Fox took the loss, giving up seven runs on seven hits with four walks in four innings of work.
The way the Sooners closed the regular season and the resiliency they showed on Saturday has Gasso feeling very confident about the Sooners' chances going forward into the postseason.
"You can't doubt them," Gasso said. "They won't stop. This started mid-to-late March, they really started to figure out who they were and they've been on an absolute tear."
This weekend's regional was the first stage of defending last year's national championship. If we learned anything this weekend, it's that it won't be easy to pry that precious trophy out of Oklahoma's hands.