Sooners Down No. 17 ASU, Tie Team Japan
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – In its first ranked matchup of the season, the No. 4/5 Oklahoma softball team took down No. 17/15 Arizona State 7-2 on Thursday night at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, held at Big League Dreams Sports Park. The Sooners then tied the Japanese National Team 3-3 in an exhibition matchup.
With its win over the Sun Devils, OU moved to 7-1 on the season while ASU fell to 10-2.
Oklahoma was led at the plate by freshman Jocelyn Alo, who turned in a 2-for-2 performance with two home runs, three RBI and two walks. Junior Sydney Romero was also a key performer, driving in four runs in the contest.
The Sooners jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Nicole Mendes singled to left field before Shay Knighten reached on an error. Then Romero plated Mendes as she grounded out to first base. Alo followed by crushing her third home run of the season to center field, a two-run shot.
Arizona State fired back with two runs in the second frame, both unearned. After runners reached on a walk and a single, an error in left field allowed a Sun Devil to score, and a fielder’s choice plated another.
OU responded with three more runs in the third inning. Caleigh Clifton led off with a double to left field, and Knighten reached on a hard-hit line drive to third base. Romero drove them both in with a double to right field, although she was called out as she attempted to advance to third on the throw.
Alo then blasted her second homer of the night, this time a solo shot to center field. She became the first Sooner to hit multiple home runs in a game since Clifton had two against Texas Tech on May 12, 2017.
The Sooners added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning. Clifton led off with a single up the middle, advanced to second on a groundout by Mendes and moved to third as Knighten reached on an error. Romero laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Clifton, marking Romero’s fourth RBI of the night.
Pitcher Paige Parker (5-0) made her 103rd career start on Thursday evening, matching Cheryl Jacobs for fifth-most all-time among Sooners. She threw 5.1 innings, striking out a season-high 10 batters and allowing three hits and two runs while improving to 5-0 on the year. Paige Lowary closed the final 1.2 innings, striking out two batters without giving up a hit.
"I thought Paige Parker was really on her game," said OU head coach Patty Gasso. "She's been looking really good and gave us a boost of energy and confidence. Jocelyn Alo's been working really hard on her game and doing a lot of extra hitting with (assistant coach) J.T. (Gasso), and it's paying off. I thought Syd Romero played well, our defense was on point. So I was really proud of them. That was a very, very good Arizona State team."
The senior duo of Parker and Lowary has yet to surrender an earned run this season, with Parker tossing 26.2 innings and Lowary throwing 11.0 so far.
In the late exhibition matchup, the Sooners and Japan tied 3-3.
Junior Fale Aviu and senior Lea Wodach both turned in 1-for-2 performances at the plate with a solo home run each.
Team Japan got on the board first, scoring a run in the top of the first inning. Atsumi Mana walked but was caught stealing on a perfect throw from Lea Wodach. However, the next batter, Saguma Natsuko, tripled to right field and scored on a single by Yamahoto Yu.
Aviu tied it up for the Sooners in the second, drilling a solo home run to right center. In the third, Wodach led off with a solo shot of her own to left field to give Oklahoma the lead.
The Sooners added another run in the top of the fourth. Nicole Pendley singled up the middle and advanced to third when Aviu reached on an error. Kelsey Arnold slapped a high chopper back to the pitcher, allowing Pendley to run home and beat the throw with the help of a crafty slide.
Japan tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, using several well-placed bunts and taking advantage of Oklahoma errors to score two quick runs. However, Parker Conrad, in her first action as a Sooner, closed the inning by snagging a line drive and doubling up a runner at third.
"Our performance against Arizona State kind of bled over to the Japan game," said Gasso. "Being able to throw every pitcher that we have, putting all of our freshmen in difficult situations and coming away the way we did was kind of a moral victory for us."
Five Sooners combined in the circle for Oklahoma in Paige Lowary (starter, 2.0 innings), Mariah Lopez (2.0 innings), Nicole Mendes (1.0 inning), Melanie Olmos (0.2 innings) and Parker Conrad (1.1 innings).
The Sooners continue the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic on Friday with a matchup against BYU at 5 p.m. CT.