May 20, 1999

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The ninth-ranked University of Oklahoma softball team won its opening game Thursday in the NCAA Regional playoffs in Baton Rouge, La., 3-1, over Long Beach State. The second-seeded Sooners will play against No. 4 seed Southern Mississippi at 7 p.m. Friday. The Lady Eagles, who are now 49-6 on the season, defeated No. 3 seed Oregon State, 1-0, in game one.

OU trailed 1-0 after five-and-a-half innings and Long Beach State starting pitcher Kristi Fox was sailing through the Sooner line-up, allowing only three hits through five frames. But with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth, OU shortstop Lisa Carey smashed a three-run double to right centerfield on an 0-2 pitch to give the Sooners a 3-1 lead. Carey was credited with two RBIs as Christy Ring scored from third base and LaKisha Washington from second. Lynette Velazquez, who was on first after being hit by a pitch, advanced to third on Carey's double and then scored on the play as 49er catcher Erin Tucker committed an error.

Big 12 Freshman of the Year Jennifer Stewart, who struggled through the first five innings, improved to 22-5 on the season. She allowed one run on six hits while striking out two batters and walking one. Fox fell to 18-11 on the year.

"I'm ready to exhale," OU head coach Patty Gasso said. "It was a pretty tough game. We were nervous because of playing in a regional game. Our bats came around late. We talked about playing Sooner style of softball where we get aggressive at the plate. Our girls showed more emotion in the sixth inning, showing a will and a way to get on base. They were committed to get the job done."

LBSU scored its lone run in the third inning. Fox led off with a single to right field and Melissa Huls pinch ran for Fox. Huls advanced to second on a sacrifice by Stacy Silva before 49er lead-off hitter Melanie Muniz hit a double over OU right fielder Deborah Hargrave's head that plated Huls.

The Sooners improved to 40-14 on the season while the 49ers dropped to 33-20.