Oklahoma Wins Via Fourth Postseason Shutout
NORMAN, Okla. – For much of the season, No. 1 Oklahoma has looked dominant as they beat down its opponents. Home or away, the Sooners were winning with style as they rolled off a record 41-consecutive wins.
It was something the players and fans had gotten used to seeing.
However, coach Patty Gasso knew better. The longtime skipper knew once the postseason began, things would start to change as the opponents got tougher.
Like clockwork, that is exactly what has happened. After OU defeated Northwestern 3-0 in Game 1 of the Norman Super Regional, Gasso says those beauty contests days are over.
“We’re over that. We’re in the postseason,” Gasso said. “You’re not blowing people out. Everybody, if they are here, they’ve got really good pitching, So, it’s not saying ‘Wow, we didn’t get nine hits. It’s just now, find a way to manufacture runs. I think any team would tell you the same thing.”
The victory was Oklahoma’s fourth shutout of the postseason.
Despite that, the Sooners have had to grind out victories, which Gasso says is going to be the norm from here on out.
“We are just happy to get wins,” Gasso said. “And we’re not looking at the numbers. It doesn’t matter. The last thing I told these guys is we could strike out 14 times and have two hits and still find ways to win the game. Right now it’s not the numbers. It’s all about getting the W.”
Oklahoma (53-3) and Northwestern (47-12) will play Game 2 at 3 p.m. Saturday at Marita Hynes Field. The Wildcats need to win to advance to a Game 3 Sunday. If not, their season will be over and the Sooners will head to the Women’s College World Series.
“I thought our players fought hard,” Wildcat’s head coach Kate Drohan said. “We’ll be ready tomorrow.”
It looked like the Sooner's offensive slump was on the verge of disappearing in the bottom of the first when Jocelyn Alo connected for an RBI double.
However, that ended up being the only hit Northwestern’s Danielle Williams allowed through the first four innings as she kept the Sooners off balance.
Unfortunately, for the Wildcats, they were unable to take advantage offensively. OU junior Giselle Juarez continued her impressive postseason by completely shutting down Northwestern to start the game.
“I think it came down to just trusting my defense,” Juarez said. “I don’t think I had my greatest stuff, but I don’t think it was my bad either. It just came down to trusting my defense and knowing they were going to put runs up on the board.”
It wasn’t until the fifth inning when Sydney Romero started off the inning with a double that Oklahoma looked like they may get something going again. The hit also moved Romero into a tie on the program’s all-time doubles list.
“I was just looking, as the leadoff batter and every time I come up, I always look to get on,” Romero said. “That’s my main goal.”
Two batters later Caleigh Clifton lifted a double into centerfield which plated Romero.
With runners on first and second Shay Knighten sent a liner at third baseman Mac Dunlap. The ball went past Dunlap for an error and allowed another run to score.
Oklahoma went up 3-0.
Northwestern tried to answer in the top of the sixth after Rachel Lewis led off with a double. But Juarez found another gear and got the next three batters out. That included a strikeout to end the inning.
“With this team, you just wait until it happens,” Gasso said. “That’s what we did. Giselle kept us in the game until some of our seniors really clutched up. Very proud of this group and how they found a way to get the first win, which is extremely important.”
Juarez (26-1) picked up the win. She pitched a complete game shutout, allowing two hits and fanning 11 batters.
“We need to trust our swings and attack earlier,” Lewis said, “I think we need to swing at strikes and be more aggressive.”
Williams (31-7) went five innings, allowed three runs and three hits in the loss.
Neither team was strong at the plate. They combined for a total of five hits.
But it’s the Wildcats who have to figure out the puzzle of Juarez. They will have to beat the left-hander at least once to keep their season alive.
“What we talked to about after the game was you need to be ready for the first pitch of the at-bat,” Drohan said. “I felt like we were a little hesitant in the batter’s box. We need to get in there, dig in and trust our swing and attack the pitch that we want instead of the wishy washy-ness that we call it.”