NORMAN – Junior Paige Parker was a force in the circle and at the plate as No. 9/9 Oklahoma (11-4) opened the Courtyard Marriott Tournament with a 3-0 win over Northwestern State (8-9-1).
After striking out 11 at Wichita State on Wednesday night, Parker matched her season high with 11 strikeouts Friday. It was her eighth career game with at least 10 strikeouts and her third such performance this season. Parker gave up just one hit and walked two in throwing her first shutout of the year and the 24th of her career.
Parker was perfect through 3.1 innings before giving up a single in the fourth. It was the only baserunner for the Lady Demons through the first six innings before drawing a pair of walks in the seventh. Parker struck out at least one batter in every inning, including striking out the side in the second.
Meanwhile at the plate, Parker reached in all four plate appearances. She singled in the second and matched a career high by walking three times in her other trips to the plate.
As a team, the Sooners drew a season-high nine walks, their most since 13 free passes at Kansas on April 25, 2015.
Also excelling at the plate was junior Kelsey Arnold, who matched a career high with three hits. It was her fifth career three-hit game and her first of the season.
Friday's game was the home opener for the Sooners after 14 games on the road to start the season. OU is now 39-8 all-time in home openers with 23 straight victories, including shutouts in each of the last seven such games.
In addition, OU has now won 16 straight home games dating back to last year, tying for the fifth longest streak in program history.
After squandering chances in each of the first three innings, the Sooners finally broke through in the fourth.
Arnold led off by lining a single off NSU starter Katelyn Boles. A sacrifice bunt from sophomore Caleigh Clifton moved Arnold to second, while freshman Alissa Dalton reached on an infield single to put two runners on. Sophomore Sydney Romero then delivered the run-scoring hit as she drilled a single back up the middle to plate Arnold with the game’s opening run.
OU added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth thanks to defensive lapses by Northwestern State.
Sophomore Fale Aviu walked with one out and senior Macey Hatfield entered as a pinch runner. Two batters later, sophomore Shay Knighten sent a ground ball that was misplayed by second baseman Madelyn Matt. Hatfield was able to reach third on the miscue, which paid off when Hatfield was able to score on a wild pitch during the next at-bat.
Now leading 2-0 with a runner on third, Parker drew her third walk of the game to put runners on the corners. Freshman Vanessa Taukeiaho entered next as a pinch hitter and pushed the lead to 3-0 with a single to center field.
Oklahoma had other chances to do damage throughout the game, loading the bases in the first, second fourth and sixth innings. Each instance came with two outs, however, and the scoring threat ended on the next batter. As a team, the Sooners stranded a season-high 16 batters.