NORMAN – In a rematch from 10th-seeded Oklahoma's Regional opener, OU (52-9) atoned from its earlier loss to North Dakota State with an empathic 10-2, six-inning run-rule victory over the Bison (29-33) Sunday to reach the Norman Regional championship.
The win improved the Sooners' record to 12-9 all-time in Regional elimination games, including an 11-8 mark under head coach Patty Gasso.
The top of the lineup did the most damage for the Sooners as freshman Nicole Mendes and sophomores Caleigh Clifton and Shay Knighten combined to go 7-11 with six runs scored. Knighten and junior Nicole Pendley ended up posting the same line as each went 3-4 with a home run, two runs scored and four runs batted in.
On game after failing to record an out, freshman Mariah Lopez was solid in the circle against the Bison. She struck out six in 5.1 innings with two runs allowed on seven hits and one walk. Her record stands at 17-1 on the season.
After struggling to manage just two runs in nine innings off NDSU starter Jacquelyn Sertic in the Regional opener, OU doubled up that run effort in just seven batters Sunday.
Mendes led off with an infield single to second base, extending her hitting streak to 18 games and her on-base streak to 31 straight contests. Those marks are the longest in her career and the best by a Sooner this year. In fact, no Sooner has reached in 32 consecutive games in one season since at least 2004.
After Mendes' single, Clifton tried to put down a sacrifice bunt, but no Bison defender made a play on the ball, resulting in a single of her own. The pair then executed a double steal with Knighten batting. The extra bases wouldn't be needed, though, as Knighten smashed a 2-0 pitch into the bleachers in left field for her 10th home run of the season.
Sertic battled back to get a pair of outs, but Pendley kept the inning alive with a double to left center. Fellow junior Paige Parker followed with a single down the right field line, driving in Pendley and extending the lead to 4-0.
OU picked up another run in the third inning, while the defense kept the Bison off the board in the bottom of the frame.
With one out, sophomore Sydney Romero rocked a double to right center, while Pendley followed with an RBI single down the right field line to make it 5-0.
Tabby Heinz led off the bottom of the third with a walk and moved to second on a single by Dani Renner. After a strikeout, Zoe Stavrou sent a deep fly to the gap in left center. Pendley raced over from center field but was unable to come up with the grab. Senior Macey Hatfield, who had just been inserted in to left field prior to the inning, picked up the ball, fired to Romero, who relayed it home to catcher Lea Wodach, and she applied the tag on Heinz to keep the score 5-0.
A sacrifice fly from Romero in the fourth extended the OU advantage to 6-0, while a four-run sixth inning put the run-rule into effect.
Mendes recorded another bunt single to lead off the sixth and moved up to second on a passed ball. She came around to score when Knighten singled up the middle, picking up her fourth RBI of the game. Two batters after sophomore Fale Aviu was hit by a pitch, Pendley delivered the big blow with a line drive, three-run homer to right field. It was her team-leading 14th home run of the season.