NORMAN – No. 9/9 Oklahoma (14-4) held off a late comeback bid by Evansville (4-9) to win 5-4 and clinch a berth in the Courtyard Marriott Tournament championship Sunday. The Sooners will face Western Kentucky, whom OU run-ruled earlier on Saturday, at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Oklahoma’s 1-2 hitters, sophomore Caleigh Clifton and junior Kelsey Arnold, each went 3-4 against the Purple Aces to collect six of the Sooners’ 10 hits. Each player also scored a run, while Clifton also drove in two.
Arnold is now 8-13 (.615) during the tournament with four runs scored. She entered the weekend hitting just .176 on the season with six hits in 34 at-bats, but has enjoyed a pair of three-hit games over the last four contests to raise her season mark to .298.
In the circle, junior Paige Lowary struck out eight in 5.0 innings to improve her record to 4-1 on the year. Perfect through the first 10 batters of the game, she allowed just one run on one hit with one walk.
Junior Paige Parker entered in relief and earned her first save of the season and the fourth of her career, moving into a tie for sixth place in OU history with Dayna Garcia (’92-93), DJ Mathis (’06-09) and Shelby Pendley (’13-15). Parker struck out four but allowed three runs on a pair of homers with one walk.
Oklahoma went small-ball to score the game’s opening run.
Arnold reached on a bunt single with one out. A groundout moved her to second, while a wild pitch advanced Arnold another 60 feet. Sophomore Sydney Romero then drew a walk to put runners on the corners. On the first pitch to junior Nicole Pendley, Romero used a delayed steal to prompt a throw down to second base. Arnold took advantage of the throw down and stole home ahead of the tag.
OU doubled its lead in the second behind a two-out rally.
Junior Lea Wodach walked on four pitches with two outs, while senior Macey Hatfield followed with a five-pitch free pass. Clifton capitalized on the walks as she blooped a single into shallow center field, bringing home Wodach with OU’s second run.
Evansville got a run back in the fourth when Morgan Florey hit a solo home run to right center, snapping Lowary’s perfect game after 3.1 innings. But the Sooners got that run back and tacked on another in the fifth.
With two outs, Pendley blasted a solo homer just to the right of the batters’ eye in center field. It was her team-leading sixth homer of the season and gave OU a 3-1 lead.
Freshman Alissa Dalton kept the offense rolling as she followed Pendley’s homer with a single and then stole second. Following a walk to pinch hitter Hannah Sparks, Wodach drove a single back up the middle to give OU a 4-1 cushion.
Chandra Parr hit a solo home run for the Purple Aces in the top of the sixth, but Clifton countered with a solo shot of her own in the bottom of the frame. It was her first of the year and the sixth of her career.
Evansville tried to mount a late rally against Parker as Hayli Scott hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer with two outs in the top of the seventh. Two pitches later, however, Parker caught a comebacker for the final out.