Oklahoma Defeats Texas A&M to Advance to Regional Final

Sooners advance to regional final with come-from-behind win over Texas A&M, 9-8

NORMAN, Okla--Even when things look bad, there is no denying the University of Oklahoma softball team, the defending national champions. After jumping out to an early 4-0 lead against Texas A&M Saturday, courtesy of a three-run homer by Shelby Pendley and a solo roundtripper by Lauren Chamberlain, the Sooners appeared to have the game well in hand. Guess again.

In the top of the third A&M's Amber Garza hit a three-run homer off OU starter Kelsey Stevens to reduce the margin to one before pinch-hitter Cali Lanphear hit a grand slam homer off the first pitch delivered by Pendley in the top of the sixth to give the Aggies a 7-4 lead.  It was her second grand slam this season. Lanphear had entered the game hitting only .170 with four homers, while starting 32 games.

But the three-run lead wasn't enough, however, to stop the Sooners who battled back for a 9-8 win and a berth in Sunday's regional final against the Aggies. Texas A&M beat Hofstra 7-0 Saturday evening to reach the regional final.

OU, 47-10, cut the margin to one in the sixth inning on solo homers by Brittany Williams and Pendly before the Sooners scored three times in the bottom of the seventh inning to hand A&M its first loss in the Regional and 21st of the season against 36 wins. A&M had opened the regional Friday with a 7-6 win over Hofstra in a game that saw the lead change hands five times before catcher Nicole Morgan's run-scoring double in the sixth inning proved to be the difference in the game.

Oklahoma took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a no-out fielder’s choice, but Texas A&M held two at bay to end the inning trailing by just one run. Aggie freshmen were the first on base for the designated visitors. April Ryan had Texas A&M’s first hit of the game with two outs in the top of the second, a single chipped into right field. Battling through a long at-bat that started with an 0-2 count, Reagan Boenker joined Ryan on base after getting hit by a pitch, but the rookies were left on base on the third out.

A pair of home runs and three base hits by the Sooners in the bottom of the third stretched the Aggies’ deficit to four runs as Oklahoma exited the inning with a 4-0 lead.

Ryan contributed her second base hit of the day in the top of the fourth, again getting on base with two outs. Senior Jenna Stark moved to second on the play after reaching on a hit-by-pitch. Stark originally popped out to the shortstop, but an illegal pitch was called, giving her a chance to reach base. Both runners were marooned as Texas A&M struggled to produce a run until the top of the fifth inning.

Junior Brittany Clopton led off in the fifth with a base hit lined up the middle and was joined on base by senior Taran Tyler, who reached on a walk. A sacrifice bunt from senior Emily Albus moved both runners into scoring position before Garza’s three-run blast over dead-centerfield cut the Sooners’ lead to just one run at 4-3. The Sooners got two runners aboard in the bottom of the inning, but freshman hurler Abby Donnell fanned two straight to escape the inning unscathed.

Texas A&M loaded the bases on one out in the top of the sixth, looking for the team’s first lead of the day. Stark led off with a base hit through the left side and was joined on base by Boenker and Clopton, who each drew walks.

A pinch-hit offering from Lanphear gave the Aggies exactly what they were looking for. The sophomore looked no further than the first pitch of the at-bat and sent it sailing over the wall in left-centerfield for the second grand slam of her career. Both of Lanphear’s grand slams came this season on pinch-hit appearances.

Oklahoma quickly answered with a pair of solo home runs by Pendley and Brittany Williams in the bottom of the inning to narrow the Aggies’ lead to one run, but Texas A&M escaped the inning with a 7-6 advantage.

The Aggies got a needed insurance run in the top of the seventh off the bat of Stark, who singled through the left side to send Cassie Tysarczyk home from second. The senior right fielder had reached on a leadoff hit to right field before moving into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt from senior Nicole Morgan.

Texas A&M needed just three outs for the win, entering the bottom of the seventh with an 8-6 lead over the Sooners. Two base hits and a walk by the home team loaded the bases with one out on the board before an RBI walk sent the 8-7 run home. With bases again loaded, Oklahoma slugger Lauren Chamberlain stepped up to the plate and pounded a laser just foul down the right-field line, but Stark reached out and snagged the shot for the second out of the inning. The Aggies’ dreams were dashed, however, as a fielding error at first base allowed two unearned runs to score and gave the Sooners a walk-off win in the seventh.

The Aggies led 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh, when reliever Katie Marks faced Oklahoma cleanup hitter Brittany Williams with the bases loaded and two outs. Williams chopped a 2-and-1 pitch to first baseman Jenna Stark. The ball short-hopped into Stark’s chest and fell to the ground. By the time Stark reached to grab the ball and lunged to try to tag Williams, it was too late. Williams was by her and on the bag.

More importantly, Javen Henson had scored from third base and the speedy Destinee Martinez had raced home from second with the winning run. Somehow, the 47-10 regional hosts had pulled one out of the fire.

Texas A&M closer Katie Marks (15-6) suffered the loss, giving up one earned run on two walks in 1/3 innings of work. Donnell tossed the bulk of the game, allowing three earned runs on five hits and two walks, while fanning five batters. Rachel Fox started the game and issued two strikeouts while allowing four earned runs on seven hits through 2 1/3 innings. OU reliever Pendley (2-0) earned just her second win of the season, giving up two earned runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings in the circle.