The confidence shown on Shannon Saile’s face was unmistakable as the redshirt senior pitcher rocked back to deliver a pitch in the top of the sixth inning against Texas Tech.
Called strike three.
The strikeout was Saile’s 12th of the day, setting a new career high for her as a Sooner.
“I was literally just trying to pitch,” Saile said. “Trying to win the game, trying to win the inning, trying to win the at-bat, trying to win the pitch.”
Saile went on to add to her career performance, recording another strikeout in the seventh inning to finish with 13 Ks. She gave up three hits and walked two while pitching a shutout to help OU to a 5-0 win over Texas Tech during the Sooners’ senior weekend.
The series against Tech (18-22, 2-12 Big 12) is the last OU (36-1, 11-0 Big 12) will play at home in the regular season.
“I remember in 2019 all the seniors on their senior day hit a home run,” Saile said. “So I was trying to live up to them.”
Saile was locked in from the beginning, setting the tone for herself in the circle with the first batter she faced in the second game of Oklahoma’s doubleheader against Texas Tech on Saturday.
The redshirt senior got Tech’s Yvonne Whaley to swing and miss on strike three for the first out of the game, something that became a trend as the game wore on.
After giving up a walk to the third Texas Tech batter she faced, Saile struck out the next six in order.
“She’s throwing the ball harder than she ever has,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “... She’s very focused this year, more than I’ve ever seen her.”
Saile’s performance was partly motivated by what she did in the circle against Georgia earlier in the week. She pitched two-thirds of an inning and gave up two runs during the Sooners’ loss to the Bulldogs. But Saturday, Saile had more command.
The game also marked the first time this season Saile has thrown a complete seven-inning game — although it was just the 10th time the Sooners have played all seven innings or more.
“We just wanted to let Shannon go,” Gasso said. “She was in a really good place. … A very good improvement from what we’ve felt in the last couple outings.
“I just felt she was an absolute boss today.”
Saile posted an 8-3 record in the Sooners’ abbreviated 2020 season and would get too high or too low while in the circle, said Gasso.
This season, Saile is more even-keeled, which Gasso said is her biggest improvement.
“She has really matured,” Gasso said. “She was real squirrelly. She was just all over the place and just nervous and jittery, [but] she really has a solid, calm demeanor on the mound, even when things aren’t going exactly the way she wants them to.”
Saile wasn’t the only pitcher to have a good outing Saturday.
Giselle Juarez started the first game and struck out four while giving up two hits and no walks in three innings of work. Brooke Vestal and Olivia Rains each pitched one inning in the Sooners’ 15-0 five-inning win over Tech in Game 1. Vestal struck out one Red Raider and Rains struck out three, for a combined eight strikeouts as a staff in the shutout.
“I thought today was a day for pitchers,” Gasso said. “Today was their day.”