Chamberlain Ties Softball Home Run Record

Chamberlain Ties Softball Home Run Record


NORMAN, Okla. --Lauren Chamberlain couldn't have hit her record-tying 90th career home run at a better time for the Oklahoma Sooners softball team Saturday.

After Baylor, which had broken OU's 12-game win streak on Thursday, winning 8-0 in six innings, had closed to within a run 3-2 in the fourth on Shelby Friudenberg's 14th homer of the season, Chamberlain hit a 2-1 pitch off Sarah  Beth Toben over left center field with Nicole Pendley aboard for a two-run homer to expand the Sooner lead to 5-2.

The homer was the 18th of the season for Chamberlain, who had struggled in the two earlier games against the Bears, and the 90th of her outstanding career. It ties her with former UCLA star Stacey Nuveman Deniz, associate head coach at San Diego State University, for the most career homers. Chamberlain hit 30 homers each her first two years and only 12 last year as she was slowed by injuries before coming back this year with a chance at the career homer record.

The two-run homer sparked the Sooners to a seven run inning and an eventual 11-3 win in five innings hurled by OU freshman Paige Parker, who hurled all of the three games against Baylor. She suffered the 8-0 loss Thursday before OU came back on Friday with a 5-2 win before taking the deciding game Saturday.

Leading 3-2 in the fourth, freshman Nicole Pendley got the inning started with a leadoff single down the left field line. That brought Chamberlain to the plate. She entered the game 0-6 in the series but singled in the second inning to break out of the mini-slump.

Facing Baylor relief pitcher Sarah Beth Toben, Chamberlain took a called strike before letting two balls pass. Now on a 2-1 count, Chamberlain drove a pitch near the outside corner out of the stadium to put the Sooners on top 5-2.

It was No. 90 for Chamberlain in her illustrious career, tying the mark set by UCLA’s Stacey Nuveman in 2002. It took Chamberlain 206 games and 571 at-bats to reach the mark of 90, while Nuveman finished her career with 90 home runs in 264 games and 691 at-bats.

“It feels good,” Chamberlain said postgame. “It is a little bit of a relief, and I feel a lot of weight off my shoulder. Honestly, the best feeling was meeting my teammates at home plate and seeing how excited they were for me.”

“I believe me beating this record is just as much their record as it is mine, just because of the last four years and the different players I have met and the lineup I am surrounded by that make it possible for me to get those at-bats. It is just cool to share it with my teammates.”

Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said that she was pleased and relieved that Chamberlain has tied the record.

“I am really excited for Lauren because the chains are free,” Gasso said. “The chains have been cut free, and now she will have the freedom to swing. That is what this team is ready for. That is what she is ready for. It would be a tough thing on anybody, and she has handled it like a champion.”

Without question, Chamberlain’s home run was the story of the game. But the subplot to the game is that the Sooners have now put themselves in the driver’s seat as they compete for an unprecedented fourth straight Big 12 title.

Now 38-6 overall on the season, the Sooners sit 11-1 in Big 12 play. Baylor dropped to 6-3 in conference play, giving OU a 3.5 game cushion on the Lady Bears (31-11) with six games remaining for Oklahoma.

“I love what is happening, but Lauren will tell you this, if it was up to her she would turn down all the noise and say this is a team effort,” Gasso said. “That is what we are trying to do. Right now we are trying to stay about the Big 12 race.”

Baylor struck first in the first as Shelby Friudenberg delivered an RBI single after Kaitlyn Thumann’s leadoff double, but the Sooners had a quick answer in the bottom of the inning.

With one out, senior Shelby Pendley drove a 3-2 pitch to straight-away center field for her nation-leading 23rd home run of the season. It was the 83rd of Pendley’s career, tying Louisiana-Lafayette’s Danyele Gomez (2003-06) for sixth on the all-time list.

Junior Erin Miller then went back-to-back with Pendley as she hammered the first pitch she saw to the bleachers in right center.

OU added to its lead in the second. With two outs, junior Whitney Ellis hit her team-leading 11th double of the season to right center and moved to third thanks to a passed ball. Freshman Nicole Pendley then hit a slow roller up the first base line that was fielded by Friudenberg, but she had no chance to beat the speedy Pendley to the base and Ellis scored.

Friudenberg hit her second home run of the series to lead off the fourth to trim the lead to 3-2, but the Sooners exploded for seven runs in the frame to extend the lead to 10-2.

After Chamberlain’s two-run homer made it 5-2, Shelby Pendley walked. A groundout moved Pendley to second, and she came around to score on junior Kady Self’s RBI single up the middle. After a walk by senior Georgia Casey, Self and Casey executed a double steal to move into scoring position. Pinch hitting freshman Lea Wodach then came to the plate and delivered a clutch, two-run single to left field to extend the lead to 8-2.

Freshman Paige Parker kept the inning going with a walk, and Ellis followed with a walk of her own to fill the bases. After a force out at the plate, Chamberlain came to the plate for the second time in the inning, and though she wasn’t able to break the home run record, she did drive in a run thanks to a hit by pitch. Shelby Pendley followed her with a four-pitch walk, and the Sooners had completed their seven-run fourth.

Baylor was able to extend the game into the bottom of the fifth after a sacrifice fly made it 10-3, but the Sooners closed the game out in the bottom of the frame.

Self got things started with a leadoff double to right center. A pair of groundouts got Self to third before Parker walked to put runners on the corners. Ellis then recorded the walk-off single as her grounder to deep short eluded Jordan Strickland, plating Self.

Parker got the win for the Sooners to record her 20th win of the year. Now 20-4, she allowed three runs on five hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

Oklahoma returns to the field Monday as it faces North Texas at 6 p.m.