NORMAN – No. 11/9 Oklahoma (32-7) continued its winning ways at home Wednesday night with a 4-2 victory over No. 25/RV Arkansas (22-13).
The Sooners won at Marita Hynes Field for the 31st straight game since April 3 of last season, the second longest home win streak in program history. The only longer streak came from April 14, 2000, to March 29, 2002, when OU won 45 in a row.
The victory was the ninth in a row overall for the Sooners and their eighth straight against the Razorbacks. During the eight-game current stretch, OU has outscored Arkansas 78-15. Overall, the Sooners are 22-2 in the all-time series with the Razorbacks. The .917 win percentage vs. Arkansas is OU’s second base amongst teams it’s played at least 20 times (28-0 vs. North Texas).
Wednesday night was also the third annual Bark in the Park night as approximately 40 dogs were in attendance. They were seated in left field and some dogs took part in a peanut butter eating contest and others showed off their tricks.
Freshman Mariah Lopez earned the win and improved to 11-1 on the season. She struck out seven but walked five after walking just seven in 61.0 innings on the season entering the game. Throwing a career-high 91 pitches, Lopez gave up two runs on three hits in 5.0 innings before giving way to junior Paige Lowary in the sixth. Lowary closed out the game for her team-leading third save of the year as she struck out three and walked one with no hits or runs allowed.
Arkansas took advantage of uncharacteristic wildness from Lopez to score the game’s first run.
Lopez entered the game with just one multi-walk game this year, but the bases were loaded with one out in part because of two walks. A.J. Belans then brought home the game’s opening run with a hard single through the left side. Lopez avoided further damage, however, with back-to-back strikeouts to close the inning with the bases still full.
Oklahoma answered Arkansas’ run with three of its own in a two-out rally in the bottom of the frame.
With runners on first and second and two outs, sophomore Shay Knighten tied the game with an RBI single up the middle to bring home fellow sophomore Sydney Romero, who had reached base on a walk. Oklahoma’s third walk of the inning, this time drawn by junior Nicole Pendley, filled the bases.
Freshman Alissa Dalton, making her first career start at catcher, stepped in and sent a chopper toward short on a 2-1 pitch. Sophomore Fale Aviu broke from second base toward third, cutting in front of Belans at shortstop and causing just enough of a distraction for the ball to get past Belans into left field, bringing home two runs.
A pitchers’ duel commenced over the next four innings.
Arkansas had only three baserunners over those innings. All came via walk, and none got past second base. A pitching change for the Razorbacks stifled the Sooners’ offense as relief pitcher Caroline Hedgcock retired nine in a row between the second and fourth innings.
Arkansas finally cut into the Sooners’ lead in the sixth.
Belans led off with a double to right center and Ashely Diaz followed with a double of her own down the left field line, cutting OU’s lead to 3-2. The Razorbacks had a chance to tie the game or take the lead, putting a pair in scoring position with one out but the Sooners escaped the inning with the lead. Lowary got the second out with a strikeout, while junior shortstop Kelsey Arnold, positioned at second base in a shift, got the final out as she ranged to her right and threw across her body on a chopper to get the final out.
Oklahoma got that run back in the bottom of the sixth, however.
With one out, Arnold was hit by a pitch and later advanced to third as senior Macey Hatfield singled to center field to push her hit streak to five games, matching a career high. Hatfield stole second, and two batters later, sophomore Caleigh Clifton was hit by another pitch to load the bases. It was the 16th time this year that Clifton has been hit by a pitch, matching the mark she set last year, which was the sixth highest single-season total in OU history.
Batting with the bases loaded, Romero hit a chopper to Belans at short. She tried to get the force out at second base, but the throw was not in time to get Clifton and everyone was safe, including Arnold with the Sooners’ fourth run of the game.
Oklahoma, 3-0 in league play, returns to Big 12 action this weekend with a three-game series at Texas (0-3 in the Big 12). First pitch Friday is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.