Stevens Superb as Sooners Beat Vols, 8-1
|W - Stevens (36-7)||7.0||6||1||1||0||11|
|L - E. Renfroe (29-7)||5.1||8||8||3||3||4|
|S - None||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|OU - Chamberlain||4||0||3||2||0||0|
|TENN - Overstreet||3||0||1||1||0||0|
|Player of the Game|
|Kelsey Stevens // So. // P
After posting an ERA close to 7.00 in last weekend's Regional, Stevens bounced back in a big way by shutting down Tennessee in the Supre Regional. Stevens tied a season high with 11 strikeouts and allowed just one run on six hits with no walks to improve to 36-7 on the year.
NORMAN, Okla. – A rain delay of over two and a half hours didn’t slow down the Oklahoma momentum as the seventh-seeded Sooners (49-10) got one step closer to returning to the Women’s College World Series for the fourth year in a row after defeating No. 10 Tennessee (45-11) in game one of the Norman Super Regional Friday night, 8-1.
The Sooners need to win once on Saturday to reach the WCWS for the ninth time in school history. Game two, in which the Lady Vols will be the home team, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on ESPN. If necessary, game three will take place later that night at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 with OU as the home squad.
With a potent offense behind her, sophomore Kelsey Stevens shined in the circle for the Sooners in front of a crowd of 1,718, the second-largest crowd in Marita Hynes Field history and the largest postseason figure. The right-hander tied a season high with 11 strikeouts, accomplishing the feat for the fourth time this year, as she ran her record to 36-7 on the year.
"We’ve been waiting to see that loose, competitive spirit back on the mound," OU head coach Patty Gasso said. "I think she just got locked in.
"She threw really well. This is an explosive Tennessee offense; to shut them down to one run is a huge triumph for any pitcher. I was very pleased with her.”
Stevens allowed just one run in the third inning as she yielded six hits with no walks. She struck out at least one batter in each of the first six innings, including three in the first, and two in the second, fourth and sixth innings. Of the 11 strikeouts, nine were swinging.
"I just felt really loose," Stevens said. "I was hitting my spots well, and the energy was just great. I got a lot of momentum from the fans and from my teammates, as well, when they were hitting great. It just felt good all around."
The Sooners have now won 16 straight games (the eighth-longest winning streak in program history), 14 consecutive home games (tied for the seventh-longest streak at OU) and 14 postseason games in a row. OU is undefeated in its past seven Super Regional games dating to 2011, outscoring opponents 50-6 during that span.
The offense did its part by scoring at least eight runs for the fifth straight game, starting with one in the first inning.
Senior Destinee Martinez led off and walked on four pitches. After a groundout moved Martinez to second, junior Shelby Pendley drew a walk of her own to put a pair of runners on. Two batters later, junior Georgia Casey pulled a single through the left side and Martinez hustled home without even a throw to give the Sooners a 1-0 lead.
The lead doubled to 2-0 in the second.
Junior Callie Parsons led off by lacing a double to left center over the head of Haley Tobler. A textbook sacrifice bunt from senior Javen Henson advanced Parsons to third base, and the small-ball tactic paid off as sophomore Erin Miller lined a sacrifice fly to center field to plate Parsons.
"What I was really pleased with tonight was just the execution," Gasso explained. "We had bunts laid down properly, putting runners in scoring position, getting those RBI. Early in the game Callie Parsons opens with a double, Javen [Henson] lays down a bunt and our nine-hole Erin [Miller] hits a shot to center for the RBI.
"It is those little things that we need to do right. Those are the fundamentals of the game and I thought they played fundamental softball tonight.”
With two runners on, two outs and sophomore Whitney Ellis facing a 2-2 count in the bottom of the third, lightning prompted a delay. Rain followed and the game was postponed for two hours and 37 minutes. When play resumed, Ellis lined out to shortstop to end the lengthy at-bat.
Tennessee cut into the Sooners’ lead in the fourth inning as Lexi Overstreet just missed a three-run homer, settling for an RBI single off the top of the wall in right field. Overstreet’s single put runners on the corners with just one out. Though the tying run was just 60 feet away, Stevens wasn’t fazed as she struck out Cheyanne Tarango swinging and Tobler looking.
"They got a run but it was more important to just stop the momentum from there," Stevens said. "I think that just got our team going even more. We wanted to answer that and get it back.”
Like they’ve done nearly all postseason, OU had an answer for when the opposing team scored. In the six innings that OU was able to bat after an opponent scored entering Friday, the team responded with runs on five occasions.
Parsons led off the fourth by reaching on a fielder error by second baseman Megan Geer. Henson laid down her second sacrifice bunt of the game to push Parsons to second, while a walk to Miller put runners on first and second for Martinez. She hit a grounder to Madison Shipman at shortstop, but Shipman’s throw was low and Tarango dropped it for an error at first base.
With the bases loaded, junior Lauren Chamberlain dropped a single into shallow center field to enable Parsons to score and give Oklahoma a 3-1 lead.
One inning later, senior Brittany Williams led off the frame with a monster home run to center field. It was her 13th of the season and the 38th of her career, putting her eighth on the OU career home run list.
Leading 4-1, Oklahoma broke the game open with a four-run sixth inning thanks to a pair of Tennessee errors.
With one out, Miller reached safely as Geer committed her second error. Martinez then reached on another error, this time a throwing mistake by Tennessee starter Ellen Renfroe. Miller took third on the play and scored on the next at-bat as she teamed with Martinez on a double steal.
Chamberlain came up next with one on and stroked her third hit of the game, an RBI double to the wall in left center to make it 6-1. Pendley followed and despite falling behind 0-2, she rocketed a two-run homer to left field. It was Pendley’s team-best 17th home run of the season and her 58th career shot.