Streaks Snapped in Loss to Wisconsin

John Rohde
By John Rohde Contributor

NORMAN – Back-to-back, run-scoring squeeze plays have put the squeeze on top-ranked, top-seeded Oklahoma at the NCAA Norman Regional.

Wisconsin (43-13) stunned the top-ranked, top-seeded Sooners (51-3) with a 2-1 victory at Marita Hynes Field on Sunday afternoon to force an if necessary game scheduled to start at 4:25 p.m.

The Badgers snapped OU’s home winning streak at 49 and its overall winning streak at 41. Wisconsin also handed Sooners ace left-hander Giselle Juarez (24-1) her first loss of the season.

OU hadn’t lost since Feb. 22 against No. 2-ranked UCLA.

With the Sooners leading 1-0 in the top of the sixth, junior reliever Shannon Saile walked lead-off hitter Taylor Johnson on four straight pitches. Saile was relieved by Juarez, who had yet to allow a hit in 10 innings pitched at the regional.

Johnson eventually advanced to third a wild pitch from Juarez and scored on a suicide squeeze bunt from Caroline Hedgecock to tie the score at 1. It was the first run OU had allowed in the Norman Regional since 2017. The Sooners outscored opponents 24-0 in last year’s regional.

Wisconsin’s next batter, second baseman Jolie Fish, scored Lauren Foster on a safety squeeze bunt to set the final margin.

Badgers right-hander Kaitlyn Menz went the distance and kept OU batters off-balance with a steady array of off-speed pitches. Menz (21-8) ended up scattering five hits and struck out five.

Incredibly, Big 12 Player of the Year Sydney Romero drilled Menz’ first pitch of the game well over the left-field wall to give the Sooners a 1-0 lead. OU bats then uncharacteristically went silent.

After three Sooners pitchers had combined for 14 innings of hitless ball in the regional, Badgers leftfielder Kelly Walsh got the first opposing hit with a bunt single in the top of the third that bounced off home plate that allowed her to beat Romero’s throw to first.

The winner of Sunday’s if necessary advances to a Super Regional against the Evanston winner.

The Sooners are looking for their 10th straight Super Regional appearance and their 13th WCWS appearance.

This marks the second time OU has been the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. The previous time came in 2013 when the Sooners claimed their second national title.

OU entered the tournament leading the nation in batting average (.365), earned run average (1.15), fielding percentage (.986), home runs per game (1.90), on-base percentage (.456), shutouts (23), slugging percentage (.675), strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.87) and win-loss percentage (.961).