AUBURN, Ala. – Junior Paige Parker struck out 14 as she tossed a four-hit shutout as No. 10 Oklahoma moved one step closer to returning to the Women's College World Series after defeating No. 7 Auburn, 4-0, on Friday.
OU (55-9) needs just one more victory to advance to the WCWS for the 11th time in program history. The Sooners will be the home team against Auburn (49-11) in Saturday's game two, set for noon CT on ESPN.
Parker recorded 14 strikeouts in the complete-game effort, setting an OU record for strikeouts in a Super Regional game and finishing one off her career high set earlier this year against Kansas. The junior allowed just four hits and walked three to improve to 23-5 on the season and pick up her 13th straight win in the postseason dating back to last season. It was her sixth shutout of the year.
A native of Independence, Mo., Parker struck out every Auburn starter at least once and had two strikeouts in every inning but the fourth. She now has 736 strikeouts in her career, taking over third place from Kami Keiter (733). Only Keilani Ricketts (1,605) and Jill Most (805) have had more strikeouts as a Sooner.
Parker lowered her postseason ERA to 0.85 in 24.2 innings this year with 36 strikeouts. In three career starts now against the Tigers, including two in last year's Women's College World Series, she has given up just three earned runs in 21 innings for an ERA of 1.00.
Sophomore Shay Knighten was 2-for-3 with a RBI and run scored for the Sooners, while freshman Nicole Mendes finished 2-for-3 with a pair of singles to extended her hitting streak to 21 games and her on-base streak to 35 consecutive games. The hit streak is two off the school record of 23 set by Kristin Vesely from Feb. 18 to March 13, 2005, while the on-base streak is the longest since Lauren Chamberlain had a 38-game stretch between 2014-15.
Oklahoma has won game one of the Super Regionals in each of the past eight seasons and has won 27 in a row overall on the road this season, extending a school record.
The pitchers' duel between Parker and Auburn starter Makayla Martin lasted until the sixth inning when the Sooners broke the scoreless tie with a two-out rally.
With one out and sophomore Sydney Romero on first base, fellow sophomore Falepolima Aviu rocketed the first pitch she saw back up the middle to put two on. That brought junior Nicole Pendley to the plate and on a 1-2 pitch, she lined a double to left field over the head of Morgan Podany. It hopped up and over the wall, resulting in an RBI ground-rule double as Romero scored.
Senior Macey Hatfield batted next. On a 2-2 offering Martin, Hatfield sent a grounder to the hole at shortstop that Auburn's Haley Fagan was able to get a glove on it, but had no play as Aviu scored the Sooners' second run.
The lead doubled in the top of the seventh as OU posted a pair of insurance runs.
Mendes collected her second hit of the game when she led off the frame with a bunt single. She has 21 multi-hit games this year, tying Romero for the team lead. Sophomore Caleigh Clifton advanced Mendes to third when she lined a double to the gap in left-center. Knighten stepped in after Clifton and sent a grounder down the third-base line. Auburn's Kasey Cooper fielded it and came home but the Tigers were unable to put out Mendes.
Two batters later, Romero blooped a single down the right-field line to plate Knighten and extend the lead to 4-0.
Auburn had several chances to get on the board, but Parker managed to squash any threat with her strikeouts.
In the second, the Tigers loaded the bases with two outs, but Parker got the Sooners out of the jam when she struck out pinch hitter Jenna Abbott. In the next frame, Carlee Wallace got to second after a walk and wild pitch with one out, but Parker fanned Fagan and Alyssa Rivera to end the inning.
Cooper gave the Tigers another chance in the fifth when she tripled to center field, but Parker struck out Wallace on three pitches to keep Cooper at third. In the sixth inning, Rivera doubled with one out, but Parker battled back with strikeouts of Kendall Veach and Courtney Shea to again strand a runner.
Auburn left seven runners on base and hit just .125 (1-8) with runners in scoring position.