Tahlequah Daily Press

OU Sports

May 28, 2014

OU getting production from bottom third of batting order

NORMAN — A major part of Oklahoma’s run to the national title a year ago was the success of the bottom of the lineup. The 7-9 batters in most lineups typically represent a steep dropoff from the top of the lineup, but the Sooners a year ago were so loaded that coach Patty Gasso was able to put some of her strongest batters at the bottom.

This year’s team began the season without that same strength, but in the Sooners’ postseason run to their fourth straight Women’s College World Series the bottom has again began to step up.

First it was Callie Parsons, who played a big role in OU’s regional victory over Texas A&M. She started a seventh-inning rally against Texas A&M in the regional final, a single that was overshadowed by an Aggies error several batters later but one that didn’t escape Gasso’s notice.

Alongside Parsons has been Erin Miller, who wasn’t even playing when the postseason began. But she was so effective against Tennessee in the Super Regional that Gasso moved her up to sixth in the finale and responded with a 2-for-4 performance with an RBI. And Javen Henson, batting in the eight-hole, went 2-for-2 with a home run in the deciding game.

And their teammates at the top of the lineup know how lucky they are.

“Shout out to the bottom of our lineup because that was crucial for us last year and it’s proving again this year in postseason that it’s a team effort and that all the hits that we can get help,” Lauren Chamberlain said. “I think the bottom of the lineup turning over to the top was huge for us.”

Henson turning the corner: Henson’s home run was more than just an insurance run for the Sooners Sunday. It was a much-needed shot of confidence for a player who had been struggling at the plate.

Henson moved into the lineup midway through the season and has been steady at second base. But her hitting has been off and on, a development that was frustrating for the senior.

But a meeting with coaches before the final game against Tennessee helped to turn thing around for Henson. She made an adjustment to Tennessee ace Ellen Renfroe and it paid off with a 2-for-2 performance, including a solo home run that helped to pad the Sooners’ lead.

Chamberlain steadily improving: Two weeks ago, Chamberlain didn’t know if she would even be playing in the Super Regional, much less playing well. A partially-torn PCL in her knee limited her activity and while coaches were optimistic she would play they didn’t know how effective she would be.

But after a dominating two-homer performance in Sunday’s deciding game that sent OU to the World Series, Chamberlain looked like her pre-injury self. And, best news of all for Sooner fans, she said her knee felt better than it has.

“Game by game and at-bat by at-bat it’s getting more comfortable,” she said. “Now I have couple days for some good rest and some rehab.”

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