By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – For the second night in a row, Oklahoma faced a team it had played during the regular season. However, this matchup with Michigan in the Women’s College World Series carried a lot more weight than the early season matchup won by the Wolverines.
With a trip to the semifinals on the line, the Sooners held on to beat to beat the Wolverines 7-5 Saturday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Oklahoma will play at 8:30 p.m. tonight with a spot in the championship game up for grabs. They will face the winner of the Georgia and LSU tilt. The Sooners have to win just once to advance, while whoever they play will have to beat them twice due to the double elimination rules.
“Whatever comes our way, we talk about it,” OU coach Patti Gasso said. “We’re not afraid of anybody. We just know it’s our path and our journey. So whoever comes forward, we’re ready. That’s all we’ve been doing.”
However, it took everything the Sooners had to put themselves in this position.
Oklahoma took a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. Aiden Faulk and Lindsey Montemarano each came up with RBI singles to cut deficit to 7-5.
That brought Abby Ramirez to the plate with the bases loaded for Michigan. She worked the count full before grounded out to ended the game.
“I think the great thing about this team is there is a different hero every inning, every game, every pitch,” Oklahoma’s Erin Miller said. “I think we’re all just trying to contribute any way we can.”
Paige Parker (35-3) picked up the win after pitching a complete game. She allowed five runs and 12 hits while striking out eight.
“The top of their lineup is very, very tough,”Parker said. “Just trying to minimize anything they do. And just try to do my best to get them out. Let my defense work behind me.”
Shay Knighten led OU with two its and two RBIs.
It didn’t take long for Sooners to strike early in the night.
In her first at bat since hitting a walk off homer Friday night, Knighten hit a dribbler up the middle to knock in two runs. She later scored after stealing third and reaching home on an error to take a 3-0 lead.
Michigan tried to hit back in the bottom of the second when they had runners on second and third and one out. But Parker got Montemarano to pop out and Amanda Vargas to ground out to end the inning.
Sydney Romero got the Oklahoma fans on their feet in the top of the third when she crushed a solo homer to put OU up 4-0.
“I had a game-plan on that at bat,” Romero said. “I stuck with it and it got me a homerun.”
Oklahoma put constant pressure on Michigan’s Megan Betsa by being aggressive on the base paths. That led to six stolen bases for OU.
Michigan got on the board when Faulk smashed a 2-run homer in the bottom of the fourth.
The Wolverines loaded the bases for Sierra Romero, who hit a roller up the third base line to her sister. Sydney tried to throw her out, but it was too late. Sierra was safe and a run scored to close the gap to 4-3.
“i really wanted to throw her out,” Sydney laughed. “I was rooting for her. But I wasn’t at the same time. That was the toughest part. At the end of the day I had to play it just like a normal game.”
Nicole Pendley added to the Sooner’s homerun total when she hit a towering shot over the right field fence in the sixth. Oklahoma extended its lead to 5-3.
After pitching eight innings the night before, Parker was being hit all over the field by the Michigan batters. However, base running mistakes by the Wolverines got Parker out of the sixth inning undamaged. Oklahoma plated two more runs in the seventh to give them some breathing room. It was too much for Michigan to overcome.
“I just think we took a little while to get going,” Sierra Romero said. “And they got the first punch in and we should have just tried to come out a little bit better.”
Michael Kinney is a freelance writer and can be reached at Eeyamtruth@gmail.com
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