NORMAN – The No. 5/6 Oklahoma softball team concluded its first homestand of 2018 with a perfect 10-0 record after defeating No. 18/17 South Carolina 5-1 and Illinois State 8-0 in six innings on Sunday afternoon in the OG&E Tournament at Marita Hynes Field.
The Sooners moved to 19-2 on the season with the pair of wins. Additionally, OU extended its home winning streak to 14 games, which dates back to last season. In 2018, the Sooners have outscored their opponents 74-7 at home.
Freshman Jocelyn Alo, junior Sydney Romero and sophomore Nicole Mendes led the team at the plate on Sunday, finishing the day with four hits apiece. Alo, Romero, senior Nicole Pendley and junior Fale Aviu all drove in two runs over the two contests.
In the first game of the day, the Gamecocks got on the board first as Alyssa VanDerveer hit a solo home run to left center in the top of the second. However, the Sooners responded with a five-run third inning to claim their third win over a ranked opponent this season.
The third-inning rally began as Hannah Sparks led off with a single to right field and advanced to second on a groundout. Nicole Mendes singled up the middle to plate Sparks before advancing to second as Sydney Romero singled. Jocelyn Alo drew a walk to load the bases to set up Fale Aviu, who singled through the left side to drive in Mendes and Romero.
After a passed ball allowed the Sooners to put two runners in scoring position, Alo reached home on Nicole Pendley's RBI groundout. Aviu capped off the frame by scoring on a wild pitch.
Mariah Lopez and Paige Lowary combined in the circle against South Carolina. Lopez moved to 5-0 on the season, tossing 5.1 innings and allowing one run on one hit while striking out five. Lowary closed the final 1.2 frames, surrendering one hit and registering two strikeouts.
“That was a big win for us,” OU head coach Patty Gasso said of the game against South Carolina. “They’re a good team. They’re going to do some good things in the SEC. That was a quality win. I thought Mariah (Lopez) was off the charts. And then Paige Lowary coming in – the pitching staff was really off the charts this weekend. And then, we had some timely hitting. We had a really good (third inning). It was phenomenally executed. We had eight hitters do everything asked in a row, and that was one of the best offensive innings I’ve seen.”
In the next contest, pitcher Parker Conrad earned her first win as a Sooner, tossing a one hitter and retiring 18 of 20 batters she faced over six innings. Conrad led the Sooners to their 11th shutout and seventh run-rule win of the season against Illinois State, while striking out a career-high six during her start.
“Exceptional,” Gasso said of Conrad’s performance. “We’ve been waiting to give her this opportunity – not waiting, but she’s earned it. She’s earned this opportunity. Really worked hard, put in extra work and extra conditioning, did all the things you’re supposed to do, and she didn’t have the outing she wanted earlier this weekend but we gave her the opportunity to do what she did.”
The Sooners opened scoring in the bottom of the third. With runners on the corners, Alo singled through the left side to drive in Kelsey Arnold. The bases were loaded after Aviu walked, and Pendley hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Romero.
Caleigh Clifton singled up the middle to drive in Alo and move Aviu to third, and a throwing error by the Redbirds’ catcher allowed Aviu to reach home.
OU tacked on three more runs in the fourth. Freshman Lynnsie Elam led off with her first career double, followed by a single from Arnold. Mendes loaded the bases as she reached on an error, and Romero singled up the middle to drive in Elam and Arnold. Mendes crossed home when pinch hitter Raegan Rogers reached first on a fielder's choice.
The Sooners clinched the win in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the sixth. Mendes led off with a double down the left field line and moved to third on a groundout. Alo singled through the left side to drive in Mendes.
OU goes back on the road March 16-19 for the Easton Tournament in Fullerton, Calif. OU is slated to face Cal State Northridge and DePaul on Friday (Noon and 2:30 p.m. CT, respectively), Nebraska on Saturday (12:30 p.m.), Ohio State and Cal State Fullerton on Sunday (Noon and 2:30 p.m., respectively) and Cal State Northridge a second time at 2 p.m. on Monday.