NORMAN — Oklahoma is a team loaded with big names. Big 12 Player of the Year Shelby Pendley. NCAA player of the year finalist Lauren Chamberlain. Team USA player Destinee Martinez.
But it’s sophomore Kady Self, an outfielder who wasn’t even starting at the beginning of the season, who has made the biggest impact since Chamberlain left the lineup with a back injury. And it was Self who came up huge for the Sooners again on Friday as she keyed a 9-0, five-inning run-rule victory over Kansas.
The sophomore lined a home run just inside the left-field foul pole in the first inning to put the Sooners on the board, and she followed up with a two-out single in the second that brought in two more to give 15th-ranked OU a commanding lead after two innings.
It was another chapter in Self’s rapid ascension. After appearing in just six games her freshman season and playing sparingly early on in 2014, she’s recorded 11 hits in her last 15 at-bats and has moved up to the second spot in the lineup.
“It’s been very enjoyable to watch,” coach Patty Gasso said. “It’s nice to see some of the younger players step up. We’re not just living off of the same three hitters like we were for a while. A start like that gets us going and gets the crowd going, which is what you want when you’re playing at home.”
Self, who came to OU last year by way of Edmond North high school, said that she’s trying to help the team in whatever way she can. And she’s enjoying the ride.
“It’s nice to see hard work pay off,” she said.
Self wasn’t the only Sooner to post a big day on Friday. Whitney Ellis added a solo home run in the third and Brittany Williams launched a three-run shot in the fourth.
That was more than enough for pitcher Kelsey Stevens, who struck out five batters to earn the win.
“It takes a lot of pressure off you when you get two runs in the first inning,” she said. “Tomorrow we have to come out with the same energy and let them know we’re still here to play.”
The win keeps OU (26-8, 5-0) undefeated in conference play, while Kansas (28-11, 3-1) dropped its first Big 12 game. For a Sooners squad that defeated Oklahoma State 2-0 in a pitcher’s duel on Wednesday, Friday’s game brought back the offense that carried OU to three straight run-rule victories over Iowa State last weekend.
The two teams will meet again at 2 p.m. today for the second game of the series before wrapping up the set with a noon game tomorrow.