NORMAN – No. 10 seed Oklahoma saw its 16-game winning streak in Regional play come to an end Saturday as the Sooners (50-9) were upset by North Dakota State (29-31) in nine innings, 3-2. Coincidentally, OU had not lost the opening game of a Regional since falling to North Dakota State in the 2009 Norman Regional.
OU will now play Arkansas in an elimination game Saturday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN3, while NDSU faces Tulsa at 5:30 p.m. in a winner's bracket matchup. In its Regional history, OU is 10-9 when facing elimination.
OU out-hit NDSU 7-4, marking the first time this year the Sooners lost when recording more hits than their opponents. Freshman Nicole Mendes and junior Kelsey Arnold each had a pair of hits, but the rest of the team combined to go 3-26 (.115) against Bison starter Jacquelyn Sertic, who struck out six and walked none in a complete-game effort.
Junior Paige Lowary suffered the loss in relief for the Sooners, despite retiring the first 11 batters she faced. She matched a season high with 4.1 innings out of the bullpen, giving up one unearned run on one hit with a strikeout and no walks as her record fell to 13-3 on the year.
Lowary took the place of OU starter Paige Parker with two outs in the fifth inning. Parker completed the first 4.2 innings with two runs allowed on three hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
The OU-NDSU game actually started Friday but play only lasted 15 minutes before rain and lightning forced the game to be suspended until Saturday. Officially, the delay was 21 hours and eight minutes.
North Dakota State got its first runs in the first inning on Friday before the rain delay.
After getting the first two outs of the game on four pitches, Parker walked Bre Beatty. That brought Vanessa Anderson to the plate. She fell behind 0-2 before taking a ball and fouling off three straight pitches. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, she lined a two-run home run to right center for her team-leading 13th long ball of the year.
Anderson's home run ended Parker's scoreless streak at a career-best 38.1 innings pitched and the team's shutout streak at 33.0 IP. Parker's stretch was the best by a Sooner since Keilani Ricketts tossed 46.0 scoreless innings from Feb. 25 to March 16, 2001.
Shifting to Saturday, Oklahoma was almost held without a hit the first time through the lineup, but Arnold, hitting ninth, dropped down a bunt single with two outs in the third. After a wild pitch, Mendes laid down a bunt single of her own to put runners on the corners. The bunt extended her hitting streak to 16 games and her on-base streak to 30 contests, the longest runs of her career and the longest by a Sooner this season. Unfortunately, a flyout ended the scoring chance.
The pitchers' duel between Parker, Lowary and Sertic continued for the next two innings until Oklahoma finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game.
With one out, Mendes collected her second bunt single of the day, while sophomore Caleigh Clifton followed with a single to right field that just got under the glove of Beatty. Fellow sophomore Shay Knighten batted next and hit a chopper up the middle that Bison shortstop Montana DeCamp got to, but couldn't make a play on. After a flyout, sophomore Fale Aviu delivered the big hit when she pushed a pitch through the left side to bring home Mendes and Clifton.
The game then moved to extra innings, where OU had been 4-0 in entering the contest. Neither team scored in the eighth, but NDSU scored the go-ahead run in the ninth.
With one out, DeCamp hit a hard grounder to OU senior Macey Hatfield, who was the team's starting left fielder but was playing the shortstop position in the team's defensive shift. The grounder was misplayed for an error, allowing DeCamp to reach. A sacrifice bunt moved her into scoring position, while Tabby Heinz drove her in with a single to center field.