The Norman Transcript

May 18, 2014

Sooners have to rally past Aggies to make regional final

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Two traditional rivals. A berth in the regional championship at stake. A sold-out crowd and a marathon game that featured six home runs.

And it all came down to a routine ground ball.

It was a ground ball that Texas A&M first baseman Jenna Stark couldn’t field cleanly, and when she narrowly missed the tag on Oklahoma’s Brittany Williams down the first-base line, it was a routine ground ball that brought in the walk-off run for the Sooners.

Seventh-seeded OU defeated Texas A&M 9-8 in a game of big hits and even bigger comebacks. Behind four home runs — including one by All-American slugger Lauren Chamberlain, whose return to the team while playing with a partially-torn PCL was overshadowed only by the dramatic ending — the Sooners built a 4-0 lead before watching Texas A&M storm back to take a 7-4 lead in the sixth inning thanks in part to pinch hitter Cali Lanphear’s grand slam.

Then the comeback began. Shelby Pendley hit her second home run of the day to right field and Williams followed with one to left that cut the lead to 7-6.

Texas A&M added one in the top of the seventh, but the Sooners wouldn’t go away. Callie Parsons led off the inning with a single, and nine-hole hitter Javen Henson singled to put two on with one out for Destinee Martinez, who walked to load the bases. That prompted a pitching change for the Aggies, who bought in Kate Marks to try and close out the game. But a walk to Shelby Pendley pulled the Sooners within a run before Chamberlain lined out to set the stage for Williams.

Facing a 2-1 count, Marks forced Williams into a chopper toward first base, where it looked like Starks would be able to make the putout. But the ball glanced off of her glove after a low bounce, and she missed the tag on Williams by inches as the tying run crossed the plate. In the confusion Martinez rounded third at full speed and beat the throw home, securing the win and sending the Sooners into the regional championship.

“This team continues to shock me and the rest of you out there,” coach Patty Gasso said after the Sooners won their 29th game in their last 31 tries. “As long as they have one strike left in their arsenal they’re going to use it.

“Callie Parsons was the catalyst of that inning. And what a heads-up play by Destinee Martinez to understand that there were two outs. I was watching the play at first and she just ran right past me. It’s an aggressive, heads-up base-running decision.”

Saturday’s contest was a clash between two prolific offenses, and no pitcher was spared. Texas A&M (36-21) threw three pitchers in the loss, giving up 12 hits and four home runs, including two by Pendley. Oklahoma (47-10) starter Kelsey Stevens left in the sixth and was replaced by Pendley, who was taken for a grand slam by Cali Lanphear on her very first pitch.

But it was the Sooners who came up with the final run. Pendley finished 2 for 3 with four RBIs and also picked up the victory in the circle, while Chamberlain went 2 for 5 with a solo home run as she played on a heavily-braced right knee.

“It’s improving every day,” said Chamberlain, who walked with a slight limp from the start and appeared a few times to pull up in pain while running. “I told coach and my team before the game I’m going to give you my best and I’m going to do what my body will let me.”

Corbin Hosler

Follow me @corbinhosler

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