LONG BEACH, Calif. – In a game that wouldn’t be out of place at the Women’s College World Series, No. 9/10 Oklahoma (20-5) suffered a 4-3 loss to No. 5/4 Arizona (25-1) in dramatic fashion Tuesday in Long Beach, Calif.
The lead changed hands three times over the final three innings, but the Sooners saw their season-best 11-game winning streak come to an end. All five losses this year have been by one run and have come to teams ranked or receiving votes at the time of the game.
Junior Paige Parker was the tough-luck loser in the game. She tied a career-high with 13 strikeouts but gave up four runs, three of which were earned, on seven hits and one walk to fall to 7-4 on the year.
Parker was lights out to start the game as she struck out the side in the first and second innings. It was the most strikeouts to start a game for Parker in her career and the most by an OU pitcher to begin a contest since Michelle Gascoigne struck out the first nine batters against Northern Colorado on March 9, 2013.
Considering the caliber of pitcher faced, the Sooners offense did well against Arizona starter Danielle O’Toole. OU collected five hits and walked three times, scoring three runs with two of those being earned. Entering the contest, O’Toole had only walked nine batters and allowed six earned runs in 79.0 innings on the year.
Oklahoma took advantage of an error to score the game’s opening run in the top of the second inning.
With one out, sophomore Fale Aviu reached on an infield single to the hole at shortstop. Senior Macey Hatfield batted next and put the ball in play with a chopper to the left side. Arizona third baseman Katiyana Mauga fielded the ball and tried to force Aviu out at second, but Mauga’s throw was wide and went into right center, allowing the game’s opening run to score.
Parker was perfect through the first three innings before allowing a leadoff single in the fourth. Fittingly, she then struck out the next three batters. Arizona got to her in the fifth, however. Jessie Harper hit a one-out double to left field and Tamara Statman followed with a two-run home run to right field, her first of the season.
Oklahoma answered right back in the top of the sixth, though.
Sophomores Caleigh Clifton and Sydney Romero singled to start the inning. Junior Nicole Pendley then hit a comebacker to O’Toole, who fielded and tried to get the lead runner at third but throw was late to load the bases with no one out. Arizona looked like it might get out of the jam after a 1-2-3 double play, but senior Macey Hatfield came through in the clutch for the Sooners.
After an intentional walk to Aviu, Hatfield stepped in. On a 2-2 pitch, Hatfield dropped a single into center field to bring home Romero and Pendley.
Arizona rallied in the bottom of the seventh to earn the win.
Mo Mercado led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Harper. An infield single by Mercado put runners on the corners, but OU got the second out on a popped-up bunt. Ashleigh Hughes walked to fill the bases, bringing Mandie Perez to the plate. She sent a slow roller between first and second that scored the tying run and a throwing error at first allowed the winning run to score.