ANN ARBOR, Mich. The No. 18 Oklahoma softball team dropped a 1-0 extra-innings heartbreaker to top-seeded Michigan Saturday afternoon in the winner’s bracket of the NCAA No. 9 Regional in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the tenth when UM’s Alessandra Giampaolo pounded a walk-off RBI double to score Rebekah Milian and give the defending National Champions the 1-0 victory in nine innings.
“I’m proud of this team for fighting all game and playing extremely hard,” head coach Patty Gasso said. “I thought our defense and D.J.’s (Mathis) pitching was good enough to win, but Jennie Ritter was better than our hitters tonight. Our girls are still fired up and they’re ready to go out and play later today.”
Saturday’s game marked a pitching battle between the top two seeds in the Regional. OU freshman starter D.J. Mathis has been impressive in her first postseason NCAA Regional. The lefty hurler fell to 15-8 after giving up her only run of the Regional in 15.1 innings. Against Michigan, the overall No. 9 seed, she only allowed eight hits and tied a career high with seven strikeouts.
Michigan’s Jennie Ritter matched OU’s performance in the circle as she held the Sooners to three hits and only walked one while striking out 15 Sooners, a season high for Oklahoma. Ritter hasn’t given up a run in her last 42 consecutive innings pitched.
All-America candidates Kristin Vesely and Norrelle Dickson provided the lone offense for the Sooners. Dickson collected two hits while Vesely added OU’s only other hit of the game. The Sooners had opportunities to score but stranded all five runners on base.
In the bottom of the tenth, the Wolverines opened the frame with a single by Milian and she moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt. Next, Oklahoma intentionally walked Samantha Findlay, who ranks second on the team in home runs and posted the game-winning homer in last year’s WCWS Championship game. Next, Giampaolo stepped to the plate with one out and pounded her walk-off RBI to give Michigan the win.
Although the game remained scoreless through eight innings, the Sooners and Wolverines each posted opportunities to score.
In the second, OU’s Samantha Ricketts sent a ball sailing over the right field fence, but the wind carried it foul at the last second.
Michigan threatened in the bottom of the fifth after Tiffany Worthy led off with a single to left field and was moved over on a bunt single by Teddi Ewing as the Wolverines had only one out with runners at first and second. However, Savannah Long got the Sooners out of the inning after UM’s Tiffany Haas lined out to Long at shortstop, who turned the double play at second.
Dickson rallied the offense in the sixth with her second hit of the game, an infield hit that blooped over the third baseman’s head and was ruled a double. Amber Spaulding’s sacrifice bunt moved Dickson over and Oklahoma had a runner at third for its only time in the game, but couldn’t capitalize.
Next, the Sooners will play an elimination game at 4 p.m. (CST) against the winner of the Youngstown State vs. Kent State contest, which followed the OU/Michigan game. The game will be broadcast on KOKC (1520 AM) following the conclusion of the OU baseball game.
The winner of the 4 p.m. contest will meet Michigan on Sunday in the finals of Regional No. 9. Michigan’s opponent will have to beat the Wolverines twice on Sunday to advance to a Super Regional. The first game on Sunday is slated for 12 p.m. (CST).
NCAA Regional Postgame Notes: It marked OU’s third extra-inning game of the season ... Prior to today’s game, OU’s longest game had gone eight innings ... Dickson pushed her season-best hitting streak to 10 games ... With her single in the ninth, Kristin Vesely is two hits shy of breaking the OU career mark (289).