NORMAN — No two programs in the NCAA tournament are further apart in experience than Oklahoma and Bryant. So when the defending national champions met a team appearing in its first tournament game on Friday at Marita Hynes Field, most expected the Sooners would roll through the first round unchallenged.
The Bulldogs had other plans.
Batting against Oklahoma ace Kelsey Stevens — who OU coach Patty Gasso said was jittery in her first postseason appearance with the Sooners — Bryant did what no one outside the dugout expected: they took a lead against the defending national champions. Kendall Corder’s second-inning grand slam put the Bulldogs on top and the Sooners on alert.
But the strength of this Sooners team has been their ability to respond, and they did just that after falling behind for the first time in three weeks. Thanks to home runs from Whitney Ellis and Shelby Pendley, OU turned a two-run deficit into a six-run advantage in the bottom half of the inning, and the Sooners cruised from there to a 14-4 run-rule victory.
“I’m pleased that we scored right out of the box; one of our goals was to start fast,” Gasso said. “We hit a little bump in the second, but this team knows how to answer.”
OU’s answer was more than Bryant could handle. The Sooners (46-10) strung together 18 hits through four innings and every batter had at least one hit. Pendley led the way, going 4 for 4 with three RBIs, while Ellis and Brittany Williams also added three apiece.
“We’ve had people score on us before,” Ellis said. “We just want to come back and get our runs.”
They had no trouble doing that against Bryant (32-21) starter Elle Madsen, who was responsible for all of the Sooners’ runs on Friday. And it was more than enough to help Stevens, who made her first postseason start for OU after transferring in from Stanford this season. After allowing several baserunners and the grand slam early, Stevens settled down and struck out five batters in four innings of work to earn the win.