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May 17, 2014

NCAA Softball: OU run rules Bryant

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After falling behind in the top of the second inning, Oklahoma fought back to run-rule Bryant 14-4 in five innings in their first game at the NCAA Norman Regional on Friday evening at Marita Hynes Field.

OU will face Texas A&M in the winner's bracket at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hynes Field. Oklahoma last faced the Aggies in the 2013 Norman Super Regional en route to winning last season's national championship.

In 19 tries, OU has notched 12 total regional championships and has won the last four consecutive regional titles it has participated in. The Sooners are 52-17 overall in regional competition.

It's that impressive record in postseason play that Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso thought gave her team an edge, even after following behind.

"A lot of this I think is attributed to the experience they've had in postseason," Gasso said. "All of these athletes are pretty well versed in what it's like to play these types of games and what it takes. I think that has a lot to do with it."

Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Stevens gave up a grand slam home run to Kendall Corder in the top of the second inning. After the initial slip, she found her stride, and the OU offense came alive.

The Sooners put together an eight-run second inning after falling behind to the Bulldogs 4-2 through 1.5 innings. Sophomore Whitney Ellis, junior Shelby Pendley and senior Brittany Williams each finished the game three runs-batted-in.

Five Sooners hit safely at least twice during the game, and eight notched at least one run-batted-in. OU managed 18 hits in five innings while Stevens and Pendley combined to give up just three hits against the Bulldogs.

Stevens struck out five and walked three batters on 73 pitches. Though Stevens gave up four earned runs in four innings, her earned run average sits at 2.13 for the season.

Pendley threw one inning of relief, picking up two strikeouts and walking one batter. The win puts OU two victories away from yet another regional title.

The last two regional titles have come with prolific slugger and Sooner captain Lauren Chamberlain in the lineup. That wasn't the case against Bryant, though.

Chamberlain suffered a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in the final weekend of the regular season and was said to be a game-time decision just one day before the regional began.

When the game began without Chamberlain, the school record-holder for home runs, Pendley said the team didn't sweat it because OU played most of the regular season with Chamberlain out due to injury.

"She was out for a little awhile so it wasn't anything different," Pendley said. "We knew we could do it without her, and it's nice to have her in the lineup, but we knew we could do it."

Though Chamberlain was fully dressed out with a knee brace adorning her right knee and she participated in OU's warm-up, she did not play an inning or swing a bat during the game. But Gasso said Chamberlain should be in the batting order against A&M.

"I'm more than hopeful that she will be playing tomorrow," Gasso said. "In other words, you can probably expect to see her play tomorrow."

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