NORMAN — What a difference one play can make.
With Oklahoma hanging on to a 5-4 lead with one out in the sixth inning, Sooner ace Keilani Ricketts threw a changeup to Texas’ Mandy Ogle, who jammed it down the first-base line. Allee Allen fielded the ball cleanly and stepped on the bag for the out. Or so it seemed.
The first base umpire ruled that Ricketts threw an illegal pitch, a controversial call that wasn’t backed up by video replay. And after Ogle singled later in the at-bat, the ruling changed the situation from two outs and a fourth-ranked Oklahoma team well on its way to clinching a share of the Big 12 title to the start of a Longhorn rally. By the time the Sooners got the out back, eighth-ranked Texas had scored eight runs and turned a close game into a rout on its way to a 12-5 victory.
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso stormed onto the field to debate the call, and she was still fuming about it after the game.
“They called it an illegal pitch, but it wasn’t,” she said before stopping herself. “I better be quiet about it.”
After the illegal pitch, the Longhorns (41-10, 15-8) got hot, quickly turning a one-run deficit into a seven-run lead over Oklahoma (42-8, 16-5) behind home runs by Taylor Hoagland and Lexy Bennett.
“We took two of three, so I don’t feel too frustrated,” Gasso said. “I told our team in the locker room they deserve a mulligan, and they took it today. We can’t afford any more.”
Texas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on Oklahoma starter Kirsten Allen before the Sooners brought in Michelle Gascoigne and then Ricketts. Oklahoma, meanwhile, loaded the bases in the first inning only to strand all three runners.
But the Sooners began their comeback in the bottom of the third, when Jessica Shults hit a solo shot, her second home run of the series. Oklahoma added four more in the fifth, tying the game on a Georgia Casey double and taking the lead on a Katie Norris single.
Oklahoma entered Sunday’s game with a chance to sweep Texas and clinch at least a share of the conference title. With the loss, assuming Missouri sweeps Oklahoma State, the Sooners will need to win two of three next week in a three-game series with Iowa State (14-35, 2-18) in Ames to win the conference outright.
Oklahoma still sits in first place, with Missouri (40-12, 14-7) two games back with each team with three games left on the schedule. Oklahoma took two of three from the Tigers in April, but with no tiebreak system in place, that outcome won’t affect the final standings. If the two teams finished tied, the title would be shared between the pair.
“If we deserve it, we’re going to earn it,” Gasso said. “If we deserve to win the Big 12 championship we’ve got to go to Ames and prove it.”
Corbin Hosler 366-3528 firstname.lastname@example.org