By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Shelby Pendley did something she had never done before. And, thanks to her and a barrage of runs, Oklahoma did something that had never been done.
With Sunday’s 13-0, five-inning run-rule victory over Texas Tech, the Sooners clinched at least a share of the Big 12 title, the first time in conference history a team has laid claim to the title in three straight seasons. The win moved 12th-ranked OU to 14-2 in conference play, two games ahead of Baylor in the loss column with two games left on the Sooners’ schedule, a pair of Bedlam contests next week.
Pendley was efficient in her first start of the season striking out five and allowing just two hits to pick up her first career victory. And while she was dealing in the circle, the offense broke out for its largest output in more than a month, with Whitney Ellis and Leslie Miller both providing four RBIs in the win.
But the Sooners aren’t satisfied.
“There’s no celebrating in that locker room, because this team doesn’t want to share,” coach Patty Gasso said. “There’s no celebrations going on until we get one more.”
Barring a Baylor loss, the Sooners will have to wait a week for their opportunity. They travel to Stillwater for a 1 p.m. contest Saturday against Oklahoma State before hosting the Cowgirls next Sunday to round out the regular season.
Against Texas Tech (35-19, 8-10) on Sunday, the Sooners made the point early they wouldn’t be giving the Red Raiders a chance to delay their road to the conference title. OU (43-10, 14-2) put five runs on the board in the first inning thanks to a Leslie Miller home run and a two-RBI single by Pendley to help her own cause. They followed that up with a six-run second inning capped by Whitney Ellis’ grand slam following a 13-pitch at-bat.
It was the highlight of the game and the weekend for Ellis, who was hitless in six tries against Texas Tech before the at-bat.
“I needed to make an adjustment, and I was looking for an outside pitch,” Ellis said after the game in which she received her first career curtain call. “She kept coming inside and I kept fouling it off and waiting for it outside. I finally got my pitch.”
Ellis’ contributions came from more than standing at the plate; she was also instrumental behind it as she caught Pendley’s first career start. Ellis described Pendley’s performance as excellent, a description that Gasso more than agreed with.
“I’ll start her wherever she wants,” Gasso said of Pendley, a junior who hadn’t pitched since high school before debuting in the circle for the Sooners last month. “To see her pitches move and keep Texas Tech guessing shows that she’s really, really good.”
Pendley’s emergence as a viable starting pitcher for the Sooners helps shore up the rotation in the circle for the nation’s 10th-ranked team by RPI. The only bad news to come out of the series against the Red Raiders is the loss of Kady Self, who tore her ACL on Friday. Gasso said that, while the injury is “heartbreaking” for the Sooners, there was no meniscus damage and it’s possible that Self could return with a brace before the season ends.
“It’s tough to see that when a young lady works her tail off to get an opportunity and when she did she ran with it,” Gasso said. “Kady is going to work hard, and she might have an opportunity to finish with us.”
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