OKLAHOMA CITY – Junior Nicole Pendley hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie and juniors Paige Parker and Paige Lowary combined on a four-hit shutout, the team's fourth in a row, as top-seeded Oklahoma (50-8) beat third-seeded Oklahoma State (35-23), 2-0, to win the Big 12 Championship Saturday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The victory marked a sweep in titles for OU as it also won the regular season crown. It's the second time that OU has accomplished the feat, also doing so in 1996, and it's the eighth time it's been done in conference history. The title is the fifth for Oklahoma at the tournament, breaking a tie with Texas for the most in Big 12 annals. With 10 regular season titles and five tournament crowns, OU has nearly double the amount of conference champions at the next closest team (Texas, 8).
Oklahoma outscored the opposition on the weekend 13-0, joining the 1998 Nebraska squad as the only teams to not allow a run during the tournament. The Cornhuskers outscored their opponents 6-0 that year.
Parker was named the Championship's Most Outstanding Player as she went 2-0 on the weekend with 16 strikeouts in 12.1 shutout innings. She was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Pendley, sophomores Sydney Romero and Caleigh Clifton and freshman Nicole Mendes.
The game was scoreless through 4.5 innings Saturday as the teams had combined for just four hits to that point. Sophomore Fale Aviu led off the bottom of the fifth by pulling her team-leading 18th double into the right field corner. After Aviu was replaced by pinch runner Raegan Rogers, Pendley stepped into the box. She got ahead in the count 3-0 before OSU starter Brandi Needham brought the count full. Pendley then drove the 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center for her team-leading 13th home run of the season.
That would be plenty of run support for Parker and Lowary, who combined to throw the team's 20th shutout of the season. Parker got the start and made it through 5.1 innings before being pulled for Lowary. Parker struck out eight, bringing her career total to 700, while walking just one and allowing three hits. Her scoreless streak now stands at 37.2 innings.
Lowary entered with one out in the sixth and only allowed one hit while striking out one in 1.2 innings. Prior to this season, the team single-season save record was six set in 2006. This year alone, Lowary has seven by herself. She allowed a leadoff single in the seventh but got a pair of fielder's choices before a groundout to shortstop Kelsey Arnold ended the game.
Oklahoma survived a scare in the first inning as Oklahoma State got a leadoff double and a pair of uncharacteristic hit by pitches from Parker, who entered the game with just four in 154.2 innings, but hit consecutive batters to fill the bases with just out. The temporary setback didn't faze her though as she battled back to strike out Jessi Haffner looking and Rylee Bayless swinging to keep OSU off the board.
After earning the Big 12's automatic bid, Oklahoma will now learn its NCAA Regional opponents Sunday night with the NCAA Softball Championship Selection Special on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. CT.