OU Defeats North Carolina, Falls to Arizona
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – No. 4 Oklahoma softball split its final day of games at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic on Saturday, downing North Carolina 3-1 before falling to No. 13 Arizona 2-0.
The Sooners moved to 9-2 on the season and finished the event 4-1.
Against North Carolina, OU opened scoring in the bottom of the first. Shay Knighten singled through the left side and advanced to third as Fale Aviu singled up the middle. Caleigh Clifton doubled to left field to drive in Knighten and to extend her hitting streak to six games.
OU carried its 1-0 advantage to the fifth inning, when it added two runs. Sydney Romero led off with a solo home run to left field, her second blast of the season. The next batter, Knighten, drew a walk before Raegan Rogers was sent in to pinch run. Rogers advanced to second as Fale Aviu singled to right field and moved to third on a fly-out, and pinch hitter Vanessa Taukeiaho singled to right field to plate Rogers.
North Carolina ended the shutout in the top of the seventh as Kristina Burkhardt led off the frame with a home run to right center. Nonetheless, the Sooner defense held steady and closed out the inning with two groundouts to Kelsey Arnold and a strikeout by Paige Lowary.
Mariah Lopez started in the circle for the Sooners, registering nine strikeouts and allowing just three hits in 5.1 innings to move to 2-0 on the season. Lowary earned her first save of the season as she closed the final 1.2 innings.
The Sooners were led at the plate by Romero, who put together a 3-for-4 performance with one RBI and one run scored thanks to her homer. Nicole Pendley was 2-for-2 and drew a walk while Aviu was 2-for-3 with a walk.
In the afternoon, the battle between two storied programs narrowly went Arizona’s way as a two-run home run from the Wildcats’ Aleah Craighton in the second inning proved the difference maker.
Both starting pitchers threw complete games. OU's Paige Parker (5-1) struck out four batters but allowed her first earned runs of the season while Arizona’s Taylor McQuillin (9-1) surrendered one hit and four walks while striking out seven.
Arizona’s runs came in the second inning as Alyssa Palomino bunted to reach first and Craighton homered to center field.
The Sooners were unable to capitalize on several scoring opportunities, leaving five runners on base in the contest. OU’s best chances came in the first and sixth innings.
In the first, Alo led off with a walk and Romero reached on a chopper back to the pitcher. However, McQuillin struck out the next three batters to strand Alo and Romero.
Alo drew another walk in the sixth inning, and Rogers entered the game to pinch run. With two outs, Knighten also walked, but another strikeout by McQuillin ended the frame.
OU’s loss marked the first time the Sooners had been blanked in more than year, with OU’s last shutout loss coming on Feb. 11, 2017, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Washington at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. Additionally, the last time OU lost to a ranked opponent at a neutral site came against then-No. 5 Arizona on March 14, 2017, when the Wildcats won 4-3 at the Long Beach State Tournament.
Up next, Oklahoma will open its home slate as it hosts Missouri State and Abilene Christian in the Courtyard Marriott Tournament on March 2-4 at Marita Hynes Field. The Sooners will face both teams twice to begin a 10-game homestand.