Tahlequah Daily Press


May 20, 2012

Tahlequah alum comes up big as OU beats Tulsa

NORMAN — What a difference a year makes. This time just 12 months ago Jessica Shults was stuck on the sidelines, watching her teammates battle in the regional as she battled pan ulcerative colitis, unable to take the field.

That was then. Now, a year later almost to the day, it was a very different story for Shults, who provided one of the biggest hits of the day in Oklahoma’s 7-1 victory over Tulsa in the second round of the regional bracket.

The Sooners were trailing the Golden Hurricane 1-0 in the sixth inning and hadn’t mounted a threat since the second inning. But after a Destinee Martinez single and a Keilani Ricketts walk, the stage was set for Shults. And she responded in a big way, taking a 3-2 pitch off the right field wall to finally put Oklahoma on the board and tie the game.

Shults added another RBI in the seventh inning, finishing 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs and a walk.

“From watching in the hospital last year, I kind of took it all for granted,” she said. “It’s just an honor to be back out on the field.”

And that hit opened the floodgates. Erica Sampson followed it up with a go-ahead, two-run single to put Oklahoma on top 3-1, and the Sooners added another three runs before the inning ended.

“We might have been pressing a little, but we never panicked,” coach Patty Gasso said. “The highlight of this game for me was Jessica Shults, trying to contribute all season and getting her biggest hit of the season today.”

For most of the game, it didn’t look like Oklahoma would cruise to victory. Tulsa ace Lacey Middlebrooks got into trouble in the first and second innings by walking three of Oklahoma’s first five batters. But she was able to fight out of the jam in each of the first two innings, helped by a pair of baserunning errors by the Sooners.

After that, she settled in and dominated the Sooners until the sixth inning until Oklahoma finally broke through and chased her off the mound with six runs.

On the other side, Ricketts was dominant. She struck out 10, issued a walk and gave up just one earned run. That came when Skylar Swanson singled and was bunted over to second and then third base. That brought up Jessica Stoelke, the hero of Friday’s game against Oregon State, who came through again for the Golden Hurricane by hitting a sacrifice grounder to give Tulsa its only run of the game.

With the win, Oklahoma advances to play in the regional championship today at 1 p.m. If the Sooners lose that game, the two teams will meet again at 3:30 p.m. in a deciding second game.

“Tomorrow we’ve got to come out quicker than we did,” Gasso said. “We need to come in with a lot of energy and excitement and attack early.”

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