The Norman Transcript

Sports

June 1, 2014

Sooners come up just short against Ducks, ending season at WCWS

OKLAHOMA CITY — OKLAHOMA CITY — When the 2014 season began, Oklahoma was the defending national champion but not much was expected of a team that lost the USA Softball Player of the Year in Keilani Ricketts and a host of talented seniors. At one point early in the season the Sooners even fell to No. 23 in the national rankings, a low point in the 20 years since the polls began.

When the 2014 season ended with a 4-2 loss to Oregon in the Women’s College World Series on Saturday, Oklahoma stood as one of the final six teams in the country still playing softball.  

“I cannot tell you how incredibly proud I am of this team,” coach Patty Gasso said. “This is always the hardest part of the season. It’s not about the ring right now. It’s about the journey that we took.”

That journey brought a team that struggled early in the season, while dealing with several major injuries to key players including Kady Self, who was lost midway through the year with a torn ACL, and All-American Lauren Chamberlain, who missed a month with a back injury and played the final three weeks of the season with a torn PCL in her knee, all the way to the World Series.

“These guys will not quit,” Gasso said. “As long as you’re wearing a Sooner uniform, you will not be allowed to quit. We had so many different lineups and worked these girls in different places. Everybody has a story.”

The story of the 2014 season ended on Saturday night after OU (51-13) couldn’t quite complete a comeback against Oregon (56-8-1), the No. 1 team for much of the season and the tournament’s top seed. With Shelby Pendley earning the start after Kelsey Stevens led the Sooners to a 3-1 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in the first elimination game of the day, the Ducks jumped on top early. Kailee Cuico doubled in a pair of runs as part of a three-run third inning by Oregon to take control of the game.

Oklahoma responded with a run in the fourth on Jessica Vest’s single, but the momentum was cut short as Erin Miller was gunned down at third on a failed squeeze play on the next batter.

The Sooners cut the gap to one on Pendley’s home run in the fifth, but that was as close as they would get. Oregon added an insurance run in the seventh inning and Cheridan Hawkins and Karissa Hovinga teamed up to retire the final three Sooner outs as the winning run stood at the plate.

“Give it up to the pitchers we were facing,” Chamberlain said. “At the same time, we could have been better. We’ll take that with us into next season and be better.”

With just three seniors leaving and the at-times dominant trio of Pendley, Stevens and Chamberlain all returning next year, the 2014 Sooners inevitably draw comparisons to the 2012 squad that lost to Alabama in the national title game. That team also returned a core group of players and went on to become one of the most storied teams in NCAA softball history on its way to the 2013 title.

“This prepares us for the future,” Gasso said. “I don’t think we had a very good weekend honestly. Our pitchers kept us in games. We didn’t swing the bats very well tonight.

“We’re really excited about the place where we went and where it’s going to take us next year.”

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