Last year, the Oklahoma softball team rarely needed dramatic comebacks to get wins. In the first two games of this year's NCAA tournament, the Sooners have needed two comebacks to move to the regional championship game.
On Saturday, the Sooners needed a dramatic comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat Texas A&M, 9-8, and move on to Sunday's regional final.
Oklahoma will take on the winner of Saturday night's game between Texas A&M and the winner of Hofstra/Bryant.
Trailing 8-6 entering the seventh, the Sooners got a leadoff single from junior Callie Parsons. Two batters later, senior Javen Henson singled through the left side, while a walk to senior Destinee Martinez filled the bases with one out. A five-pitch walk to junior Shelby Pendley then made it an 8-7 game. After a foul out, senior Brittany Williams hit a chopper to first base that was turned into an error by Texas A&M's Jenna Stark. Henson scored from third as the tying run, while Martinez hustled all the way around from second to score the game-winning run.
"I think it's a little bit of Destinee being aggressive," OU coach Patty Gasso said. "Once we tied the game with two outs you have nothing to lose, so go for the win. That's maybe a little bit of the thought process there but with two outs and her speed you go, go, go. She saw that. I was looking more at the play to see whether I need to get involved or not, and she just ran right past me."
The win was the first by the Sooners when they trailed after six innings this season. Previously they had been 0-7 in such situations.
"This team is a team that did what they're capable of doing," Gasso said. "As long as they have one strike left in their arsenal they're going to use it and that's what they did."
The Aggies had taken the lead in the top of the sixth inning when Cali Lanphear came up with the bases loaded and hit a pinch-hit grand slam to give Texas A&M a 7-4 lead.
"Cali just went up there with ice in her veins and just got right after it," Texas A&M coach Jo Evans said. "Really proud of Cali. It's not been an easy year for her, but she has continued to work hard and really shown great character and great fight, and for her to get that grand slam was a thrill."
The momentum-changing play came on the first pitch thrown by Pendley, who came on in relief of starter Kelsey Stevens, who once again ran into trouble when she lost the strike zone. Stevens went 5.1 innings, giving up six runs on five hits while walking three and striking out four.
The Sooners cut two runs off the deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to solo home runs from Pendley and Brittany Williams, but the Aggies put another run back on the board in the top of the seventh, thanks to an RBI single from Stark.
The Sooners grabbed a 4-0 lead in the top of the third inning when Pendley hit a two-run homer and Lauren Chamberlain, making her first appearance in this postseason, followed with a solo home run.
Texas A&M cut into the lead in the fifth inning, thanks to a three-run homer from Amber Garza.