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May 30, 2014

Softball backs against the wall after opening loss

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Two years have passed since Oklahoma and Alabama met in the Championship Series of the Women's College World Series.

This time there was no national title on the line for the seventh-seeded Sooners or second-seeded Crimson Tide late Thursday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. But the result was the same as it was in the final game of the 2012 season.

Alabama's cruised to a 6-2 win riding the wind beneath pitcher Jackie Traina's sails. Traina (24-3) hurled a 1-hitter, going the full seven, striking out nine and walking five.

"I thought Jackie Traina threw very well, and I thought Alabama brought their bats, and they swung it really well tonight," said OU coach Patty Gasso. "They took advantage of opportunities that they had. I feel like we had a little bit of an uncharacteristic approach tonight. I know that we're a better offensive team."

OU will play its next game in the loser's bracket of the double elimination tournament at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin Cajuns took two of three off the Sooners during the regular season in Lafayette, La.

"It's go-time from here on out, and every team is good here," said OU captain Lauran Chamberlain. "And I don't think you can take a pitch off while you're in the World Series."

Junior Shelby Pendley made her collegiate pitching debut against ULL, and the first team All-American announced her presence at the 2014 WCWS with a bomb.

Three batters into the game, Pendley jumped on a 70 mile-per-hour fastball and crushed it over the left field wall to give the Sooners a 1-0 advantage. The lead didn't last long.

Sooner pitcher Kelsey Stevens (37-9) walked the first batter she faced to begin the bottom of the second inning. Then Tide (51-11) catcher Molly Fichtner slapped a single to put runners on first and second with nobody out.

After an errant throw from catcher Whitney Ellis gave free bases to both runners, Stevens was staring down Tide designated player Marisa Runyon with two runners in scoring position and not one out to her name in the inning.

Runyon worked the count full before getting a pitch she drove to right field that fell just in front of Sooner right fielder Erin Miller for an RBI single. That tied the game at 1-1. But Stevens was quick to regroup.

The next Tide batter, third baseman Peyton Grantham, popped out to Stevens. Then Stevens got eight-hole hitter Leona Lafaele to go down looking and shortstop Danae Hays to go down swinging, stranding runners on the corners.

The Sooners (50-12) gave Stevens another lead to work with in the top of the fourth after Sooners Erin Miller and Callie Parsons worked their way to first and second with two out. When Parsons took too large a lead off first, Fichtner tried to gun her down.

Fichtner's throw was in time, but by then Miller was on her way to third. Lafaele tried to make a play, but the throw was bad and the second Tide error in the inning scored Miller to make the score 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth. Then the Tide bats awoke.

Grantham crushed a Stevens pitch with two runners on for a 3-run home run to make the score 4-2 with one out in the fourth inning. Jadyn Spencer padded that lead with a two-run blast in the bottom of the fifth for her 13th home run of the season.

The offering to Spencer would the last Stevens would throw against the Tide. Pendley came on in relief to finish the game.

"I thought Kelsey started really strong," Gasso said. "Some of the pitches that she threw that got hit hard looked like pretty good pitches. So for her first outing -- I know she gave up some big runs and that's unfortunate -- but I thought that for her first outing she was OK. I thought she competed."

Stevens gave up seven hits, five earned runs and struck out five in 4.1 innings. She'll have to regroup before Saturday's game against a ULL squad that can hit.



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