The Oklahoma Sooners began their national title defense in the Women’s College World Series on Thursday night with a win against conference opponent Baylor. Perhaps it was a familiar opponent, or possibly the gravity of the moment had them amped up, but OU exploded to a 4-1 lead in the opening frame. Three of Oklahoma’s runs came off the bat of Shelby Pendley. After Nicole Mendes had scored the game’s first run, on a Fale Aviu sacrifice, Pendley went yard to left field.
“That game is on me,” Baylor pitcher Kelsee Selman said afterwards. “If I wouldn’t have had that first inning, we would have won the ballgame 3-2.” She may actually have been right in her assessment. Although it seemed as if Oklahoma dominated the game for six innings, the Sooners were never fully able to get Baylor to fold.
Pendley’s three-run blast further energized the team, and the crowd, but Baylor bounced back with a run in the top of the second before Selman sat the Sooners down in order in the bottom half of the frame.
Oklahoma extended its lead in the bottom of the third when Aviu produced her second RBI of the day. Her single to right field scored Clifton, who led-off the inning with a single through the right side, to boost the Sooners to a 5-1 lead.
An unconventional score in the bottom of the fourth increased the lead to 6-1. After the Sooners pulled off three consecutive bunt singles, Caleigh Clifton was hit by a pitch allowing Macey Hatfield to score due to the bases being loaded.
That’s how the score would remain going into the bottom of the seventh when Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso turned to junior Paige Lowary to close the game out. Maddison Kettler led off the frame by running out an infield single, she then moved to third on a throwing error by Oklahoma’s third baseman Sydney Romero, on a ball that was smoked by Jessie Scroggins, and the Bears suddenly had life with runners on second and third with no outs.
The Sooners then committed their fourth error of the game on what should have been a fielder’s choice from Caitlin Charlton. Instead Kettler scored and the Bears had runners on the corners with no outs. Lowary forced a pop out of Taylor Ellis but then a fielder’s choice by Lindsey Cargill scored Scroggins to cut the lead in half. That’s where the drama would end though as Kyla Walker grounded out to end the game, sending Oklahoma to a Friday evening match against sixth-seeded Washington.
“It was tough,” Patty Gasso commented on the game. “That was a tough game. We know each other very well, and we’re always fighting for Big 12 championships, so to put it on this stage is a whole ‘nother feeling. Baylor is a good team that makes your defense play, and we felt that pressure tonight.”