By CORBIN HOSLER
TULSA — With two of its last four games rained out, Oklahoma’s top-ranked softball club wanted to get back on the field before kicking off today’s Big 12 opener against Baylor.
In a contest planned at the 11th hour after Wednesday’s contest against Louisiana-Lafayette was rained out, the Sooners got everything they bargained for with No. 18 Tulsa on Thursday, with OU pulling out a 3-1 victory.
It didn’t come easily. Down to its last chance, Tulsa loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh against Ricketts, and even momentarily appeared to cut the lead to one after a Jodi Edmiston bunt down the first-base line seemed to score a runner. But after a protest by OU coach Patty Gasso, officials huddled and ultimately ruled that the ball bounced off Edmiston on the basepath, rendering Edmiston out and the game over.
For Oklahoma (31-2), which hadn’t played in eight days, the game was an important warmup, and it came against a familiar rival. OU and Tulsa (29-8-1) met last year in the NCAA regional, where the Golden Hurricane shut out the Sooners for five innings before the Sooners broke open the game on their way to the regional title.
On Thursday, the game played out much the same. A pitchers’ duel for five innings between OU’s Michelle Gascoigne and Tulsa’s Aimee Creger, the Sooners finally broke through in the sixth, turning a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead on Jessica Shults’ single that brought in Georgia Casey and Shelby Pendley.
Shults credited the batters in front of her for getting on base, including a deep double by Pendley, and setting her up.
“Watching the batters above me get on just builds the momentum,” she said. “I believe hitting is contagious, and they did their job getting on and made it easy for me.”
Next up for OU is a three-game set with No. 17 Baylor (29-7) in the Big 12 opener. After more than a week off, Gasso stressed how important Thursday’s game was in preparing the Sooners for the series.
“It was important enough that we got on a bus and drove down here,” she said. “I’m grateful to Tulsa for letting us come and play here. Our pitchers needed to face some hitters besides our own in practice, and Tulsa is a very good team.”
Against the Bears, one of three ranked teams in the conference, Gasso said the Sooners must continue to do the things that keyed their success on Thursday.
“We have to be ready to make quick adjustments and not chase pitches outside the zone,” she said. “We gave away some at-bats today, and we’re better than that. But I liked the way that hitters who had some struggles early today came through for us at the end.”