OU Finds Sooner Magic in Extras Against Tulsa
NORMAN – Down to its final three outs of the season, No. 10 seed Oklahoma (53-9) found a way to rally as sophomores Caleigh Clifton and Sydney Romero powered the Sooners to a walk-off victory behind a pair of two-run home runs in a 6-4, 10-inning win over Tulsa (41-16) Sunday.
With the win, Oklahoma forces a winner-take-all game Monday against Tulsa for the right to face No. 7 Auburn in the Super Regionals. First pitch is scheduled for noon CT on ESPNU. Fans with tickets to Session 3 may use them Monday, while a limited number of seats are expected to go on sale at the stadium box office at 10:30 a.m.
Tulsa led 4-2 entering the top of the 10th, but freshman Nicole Mendes set the tone with a leadoff single to right field on the first pitch of the inning. Clifton batted next and powered an 0-1 pitch beyond the wall in left field to tie the game at 4-4; it was Clifton's eighth home run of the season.
The pressure continued as sophomore Shay Knighten pushed a 1-2 offering from Tulsa's Emily Watson through the right side. On the very next pitch, Romero drilled a towering walk-off blast to left field to give the Sooners their fifth extra-inning win of the season and second against the Golden Hurricane.
It was the latest in a long line of dramatic postseason wins for the Sooners over the last five years. In 2013, Lauren Chamberlain hit a walk-off home run to beat Tennessee in the 2013 WCWS Championship. In 2014, OU rallied from an 8-6 deficit in the bottom of the seventh in the Regionals to beat Texas A&M, 9-8. The next year, Erin Miller hit a walk-off home run to stun the Aggies once again in the Regionals, and last year Shay Knighten opened the WCWS with a walk-off blast to beat Alabama.
Romero led the way Sunday by going 3-5 with three runs batted in. She leads the team this year in both multi-hit games (21) and multi-RBI contests (17). Four other Sooners had multi-hit games as Clifton and fellow sophomore Fale Aviu were each 2-4 and junior Nicole Pendley went 2-3 with a solo home run. Freshman Nicole Mendes was 2-5 to extend her hitting streak to 19 games and her on-base streak to 33 contests, both the longest by a Sooner this year.
In the circle, junior Paige Lowary shined in a relief effort to earn the win. She came out of the bullpen in the second inning and threw a career-high 8.1 innings to improve to 14-3. She struck out five and allowed two runs on four hits and two walks. The Dallas Center, Iowa, native retired 21 of the first 23 batters she faced.
Tulsa got on the board in the first inning when a throwing error from OU catcher Lea Wodach allowed Maggie Withee to score from third. The Golden Hurricane then made it 2-0 in the second after Shelby Estocado's solo home run to left field.
OU finally cracked Watson in the fifth when Pendley launched a solo home run to right center to cut the lead to 2-1.
Watson ended the game with six runs allowed on 13 hits and three walks while posting three strikeouts. Her record is 30-5 on the year with two of the losses coming to the Sooners. When the teams met on March 8, Watson struck out nine and gave up just one run but OU prevailed 1-0 in 10 innings.
After getting on the board in the fifth, OU tied the game in the sixth when Romero sent a seeing-eye single back up the middle to drive home Clifton, who had walked to start the inning.
Neither team scored over the next three innings, but Tulsa pulled ahead in the 10th behind an RBI double from Tori Stafford and a run-scoring single from Maddie Withee.