Oklahoma Homers Its Way Into History And WCWS
NORMAN, Okla. – After Friday’s win over Northwestern, Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said the days of the blowouts are gone.
When Gasso made that statement to the media, she might as well have been talking directly to her team. The top-ranked Sooners came out Saturday for Game 2 of the Super Regionals and brought their big sticks with them. Oklahoma smashed five homers on the way to an 8-0 victory over the Wildcats in front of 1,939 spectators at Marita Hynes Field.
The win clinched the Sooners (54-3) fourth straight trip to the Women’s College World Series and their 13th overall. They will face Alabama in the opening round.
For the OU seniors, they will end their careers having played in the WCWS every single season they have been at Oklahoma. That achievement is not lost on them.
“I think that is just a testament to coach Gasso and how she holds us all to high standards,” OU senior Caleigh Clifton said. “It’s expected every year and we work for it.”
No one had a bigger day than OU’s Sydney Romero. The senior third baseman went 3-for-5, with an RBI and two runs scored. She also became the Sooner's all-time leader in doubles.
“They play it very low-key,” Gasso said. “But those are things I’ll never forget. Unless they’re reading it on Twitter, they don’t know that there’s things going on like that. For her (Romero) to be in the record books, it’s a big deal here because some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game are from this program.”
Romero, a Player of the Year finalist, couldn’t ask for a better way to close out her career at home. But she says she still has work to do as she seeks her third national championship.
“This game we came out to just leave all on the field,” Romero said. “And I’m leaving here with no regrets. That’s one of the best things I could ask for being here. And I’d rather end my season in OKC. I think that’s everyone’s goal.”
Romero started the afternoon off with a single. She was then driven home by Fale Aviu for the game’s first score.
After Northwestern’s Danielle Williams walked Clifton, pitching coach Michelle Gascoigne took a visit to the mound. That was enough to settle the freshman down and she got the next three batters out.
But that was not the case in the third inning. Romero led off the inning with a towering solo homer. Two batters later, Jocelyn Alo crushed a two-run shot over the fence to push the Sooner’s advantage to 4-0.
That was enough for Williams. She was pulled and Kenna Wilkey came in for relief.
However, that didn’t stem the Sooner's tide. Nicole Mendez knocked in a run on a single to left to put OU up 5-0.
“I’m a little disappointed on our part because I don’t believe we played our best game today,” Northwestern coach Kate Drohan said. “You face a team like Oklahoma and you want to keep the ball in the park. But we got beat a lot today by a walk and a homerun. That can escalate a game quickly.”
Conversely, the Wildcats couldn’t seem to get a handle on Mariah Lopez (18-1). The junior rolled through the batting order without much of a threat.
Despite allowing no runs and only two hits, Lopez was lifted in the bottom of the fifth inning for Shannon Saile. The Wildcats Skyler Shellmeyer promptly reached on an error by Grace Green at first.
However, Saile struck out Rachel Lewis to close out the inning.
Green, Clifton and Lynnsie Elam each clubbed solo homers to give the Sooners a new NCAA single-season record of 108.
That was more than enough for Saile to close the game out. It was the team’s fifth shutout in six games this postseason.
“Even though we know it’s a shutout, we know this offense is going to come back and score some runs,” said Lopez, who picked up the victory. “Knowing that we could pitch a little free-er. This pitching staff is really close and really connected.”
When it was over, the Sooners had a kind of muted celebration. They performed their ritual of taking down the WCWS appearance banner and taking it to home plate. Besides that, it was another end to a business trip.
“There are times I wonder, why aren’t we celebrating harder? Why aren’t we dog-piling?” Gasso asked herself. “And it’s just this commitment to excellence. The expectations are that they should be one of the top eight teams in the country. So, I kind of like seeing celebrations. But I love that they have that expectation and they strive for it.”