Playing in front of a season-high crowd of 1,217, the Sooners tallied five runs on four hits and one error in the fifth to break a 2-2 tie and improve to 13-5 all-time in Big 12 openers.
In addition, OU lifted its nation’s best win total and winning percentage against top-25 teams to 12 and .857, respectively. OU is outscoring ranked teams, 82-14, this season.
“It’s the first game of Big 12. We wanted to bring it,” senior Jessica Shults said. “We want to win that first game, so I feel like our energy, I was just feeling it. I feel like our whole dugout the whole night, '21 of us strong' is what we have been saying all year, and you really saw it tonight.”
The win was earned by senior Keilani Ricketts, who now has 115 in her career to tie former Sooner Jennifer Stewart (1999-02) for the most in school history. Ricketts, 17-1, on the season, struck out eight and allowed three runs on six hits and three walks over 5.2 innings.
Tied at 2-2 in the fifth, Shults, who went 3-3 at the plate, led the big inning off with a single up the middle.
“Jessica Shults, this was one of the best games I’ve seen her this season, not just offensively but defensively,” Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. “She’s knocking balls down, throwing out a runner at second, making a big play toward the end of the game with the fly ball. She really was locked in tonight.”
Sophomore Callie Parsons came on to run for Shults and moved to second when Ricketts reached on an infield single to first base. Freshman Erin Miller replaced Ricketts on the base paths and moved up, along with Parsons, on a passed ball. With two runners in scoring position, sophomore Erica Sampson pinch hit for junior Destinee Martinez and sent a slow roller up the first base line. However, Baylor’s Holly Holl was unable to field the ball cleanly and that allowed Parsons to score and move Miller to third.
Sophomore Jessica Vest came up next with runners on the corners and ended up reaching safely on a finely executed squeeze bunt. A groundout moved both runners up a base, but it wouldn’t be needed as sophomore Lauren Chamberlain launched a three-run home run to straight away center field to put the Sooners on top 7-2.
It was Chamberlain’s 17th smash of the season and 47th of her career. She is now tied for sixth all-time in Big 12 history for career home runs and moves into sole possession of fourth place on OU’s list.
“I think this is a game of momentum, and they know how to create it, and they know how to run with it,” Gasso said. “They’ve done a great job all season at doing it with two outs and extending. They kept saying hand it over; hand your next at bat. They did a good job of that. We had some really quality at-bats.”
Baylor threatened in the sixth inning, prompting a pitching change from Oklahoma.
With the bases loaded and one out, Kelsi Kettler hit a sacrifice fly to foul territory in right field. Ricketts then hit Clare Hosack to re-fill the bases. That would end up being Ricketts’ final pitch as fellow senior Michelle Gascoigne entered from the pen.
Facing the tying run at the plate, Gascoigne was able to induce a fly out to right field from pinch hitter Liz Paul and end the threat. Gascoigne threw the game’s final 1.1 innings, allowing just one hit.
OU got Baylor’s run back with one of their own in the bottom of the sixth as junior Brittany Williams drew a bases-loaded walk, the third of the game for the Sooners.
“We really talked about owning the strike zone and not giving your at-bats up,” Gasso said. “They did a good job of not chasing pitches out of the zone. We were trying to figure out where the zone was and just be patient with that.
“I think base-on-balls came around to help us. Those are free base runners. We used that to our advantage. I think they did a good job of understanding and knowing the strike zone and not chasing things out of the zone and just being patient.”
It was that same patient approach at the plate that gave Oklahoma a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
With one out and Ricketts on first, Williams walked before Martinez blooped a single to shallow left field. Vest then drew a five-pitch walk to score the game’s opening run. Two batters later, Chamberlain fouled off a full-count pitch and was able to work out a walk and push the Sooners’ lead to 2-0.
Baylor answered right back in the top of the third, though, with two runs of its own.
With the bases loaded and two out, Sarah Smith laced a double to the gap in left center to tie the game at 2-2. Ricketts avoided further damage though by striking out Linsey Hays with a pair in scoring position.
Game two of the three-game series is set for noon on Saturday and can be seen on Fox Sports Oklahoma.