The Norman Transcript

May 19, 2013

Defense just as crucial to Sooners’ win as clutch hits

By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Coach Patty Gasso said suspect fielding was one of the Sooners’ biggest weaknesses early in the season.

It was something the coach focused on improving as the Sooners entered conference play, and something her players responded to. OU posted a .984 fielding average in the Big 12, and it was the defense that came up big for the Sooners again on Saturday.

The most vital defensive plays came in the first inning. Lauren Chamberlain backhanded a hard-hit ground ball at first base to earn the first out of the inning, and Shelby Pendley then made a running grab and throw from third to secure the second out.

The Razorbacks then loaded the bases, threatening to draw first blood. Sierra Bronkey lined a hard hopper down the third base line that looked like it would go foul. But the ball took a hard hop toward the infield just before the bag, and Pendley was able to make the quick adjustment to snag it and tag third base for the force out just before the runner arrived. That set the tone for the Sooners, who responded by plating two runs in the first inning to take control of the game.

Another great defensive play helped to close out the game, when Georgia Casey fielded a hard one-hopper at second base in the seventh inning and tagged out the baserunner before completing the double play at first base.

“They talk about pitching wins championships and defense wins championships in every sport, and I’m an advocate of that,” Gasso said. “I love it. Everyone just got their job done. When you give a team an extra out, especially in the postseason, that can come back and bite you.”

Chamberlain sets single-season mark: Chamberlain etched her name into the record books yet again on Saturday, setting the school and conference mark for runs scored in the first inning of a 10-5 victory over Arkansas.

After reaching first on a dropped fly ball and taking second on a heads-up play as the ball rolled away, Chamberlain moved to third on a Georgia Casey bunt and scored when Keilani Ricketts singled into center.

It was Chamberlain’s 72nd run scored on the season, breaking a tie with Amber Flores and setting a new Big 12 mark. She later added another run on her way to finishing 2 for 3 with two runs scored and five RBIs.

“I have the confidence because of my hitters around me; in front of me and behind me,” she said. “Our crowd is huge right now with the sound, and using that to my advantage and slowing the game down.”

Arkansas rests Beasley: After throwing All-SEC pitcher Kimmy Beasley in a victory on Friday, coach Mike Larabee decided to rest her in Saturday’s first game, a decision that surprised OU coach Patty Gasso.

Hope McLemore started the game and went three and one-thirds innings. She allowed six hits and gave up four runs, though only two of those were earned due to an error in the first inning that allowed the Sooners to bring in the first two runs of the game.

Chelsea Cohen relieved McLemore in the fourth inning and finished the game, giving up six earned runs.

“That was our strategy coming in,” Larabee said. “McLemore’s a senior from Ringling, Oklahoma. We wanted to give her an opportunity and give Kimmy a little bit more rest.”

Corbin Hosler

Follow me @Chosler88