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May 18, 2014

Sooners knock off A&M, ready for Vols

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With an 11-6 victory against Texas A&M in the Norman Regional, No. 7 national seed Oklahoma punched its ticket to the Super Regional stage of the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight season.

Dating back to last year, the Sooners have won their last 13 straight in the postseason. OU will face No. 10 seed Tennessee in the Super Regional at Marita Hynes Field.

The weekend series will be a rematch of the two teams who earned their way to the Championship Series of the Women's College World Series last year. The defending national champion Sooners defeated the Volunteers for the 2013 title.

At the beginning of this season, Tennessee was ranked as the No. 1 team in the country according to the USA Today/NFCA poll. OU coach Patty Gasso's Sooners began the season ranked No. 2.

"They have the experience that we have so it's going to be a great matchup and it's unfortunate that one of us is going to be knocked out and one of us is going forward," Gasso said, "but you're going to see two teams that are going to leave it on the field. It's going to be a great Super Regional."

During the regional OU scored 34 runs over 19 innings but needed to come from behind in every game. Sunday's win was precipitated by an offensive burst from OU in the second inning at Hynes Field.

After falling behind Texas A&M 2-0 in the first inning, Oklahoma junior Georgia Casey hit a solo home run over the left field wall to put the Sooners on the board.

The Sooners promptly loaded the bases following Casey's blast. Senior Destinee Martinez hit a triple that cleared the bases and gave the Sooners a two-run lead.

"One of my jobs is to get the ball on the ground and move runners," Martinez said, "but with bases loaded it's kind of hard to move runners when it's on the ground so I was kind of just looking for an up pitch and that's what I got."

Junior Shelby Pendley singled to score Martinez from third. By the time third out was recorded in the second inning, the Sooners had taken a 5-2 lead.

The Aggies (37-22) would pull to within one run of OU by the end of the fourth inning, but they could not summon enough hits to keep pace with the Sooners for the final three innings.

Oklahoma (48-10) ended the game with 14 hits, including three home runs. Every Sooner who took an at-bat recorded a hit against Aggie pitching. Texas A&M threw three different hurlers at OU in all.

Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Stevens (35-7) earned the win with a complete game. Stevens gave up seven hits, six earned runs, struck out six and walked one day after the Aggies forced her out of the circle in favor of Pendley.

"I was going to go out there no matter what," Stevens said. "If they hit the ball, it didn't matter, I was going to go out there and get the next batter. I just wanted to make sure I limited the runs as much as I could for my team."

Gasso said the adversity the Stevens endured over the last two days has made her a better pitcher for what lies ahead in the coming days.

"That team right there made Kelsey better," Gasso said. "That whole weekend was tough on her, but it's going to make her better for next weekend."

OU RALLIES IN SEVENTH TO ADVANCE IN WINNER'S BRACKET

When Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain, playing on an injured right knee, lined out to first base in the bottom of the seventh inning with one out and Texas A&M leading OU 8-7, the Sooners seemed likely to drop their first game in the Norman Regional.

But the bases were still loaded for senior

Brittney Williams. Williams, who has been playing first base in Chamberlain's stead, hit a ground ball down the line to first base at Marita Hynes Field on Saturday afternoon.

The Aggie first baseman bobbled the ball off her chest. That gave Williams enough time to speed past her and reach first on an error.

Williams' reaching first successfully allowed enough time for seniors Javen Henson and Destinee Martinez to reach home before a throw could be made.

When Martinez crossed the plate, the come-from-behind 9-8 win was cemented for the Sooners. That makes twice in two days that OU has won by comeback and puts the Sooners one win away from the 2014 regional title.

"This team is a team that did what they're capable of doing," said Sooner coach Patty Gasso. "As long as they have one strike left in their arsenal they're going to use it and that's what they did."

Junior Shelby Pendley gave up a grand slam on her first pitch in relief of sophomore Kelsey Stevens in the top of the sixth inning, which gave Texas A&M a 7-4 lead. The Sooners put two runs on the board in the bottom half of the inning, but OU trailed 7-6 going into the seventh.

"There was so much positive talk," Chamberlain said. "There wasn't a second that we though we were going to lose that game."

Oklahoma had been 0-7 when trailing after six innings before defeating Texas A&M (36-21) with a seventh-inning rally. The rally was begun by seven-hole hitter Callie Parsons who reached base safely on a base hit.

That led to the bottom of the lineup working its way around to the top, to the power producers for OU -- Martinez, Pendley, Chamberlain and Williams -- coming up in the order. They'd showed they were capable of coming up with the goods earlier in the game.

Chamberlain, in her first postseason at-bat this season, lined a shot to left centerfield for a single in the first inning. Later, she crushed a home run over the left field fence.

In addition to earning the win in the circle, Pendley hit two home runs and accounted for four runs-batted-in in just three at-bats. Williams hit a home run in the sixth inning to give OU some momentum going into the final inning.

When the game was on the line, Gasso had the players she wanted most coming up to bat, and that group of upper classmen came through.

"We trust in each other, so if one of us doesn't get the job done we're right there by each other regardless of what happens and we have each other's backs," Williams said.



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