NORMAN, OKLAHOMA – Patty Gasso and the Sooner Softball team continue to dominate on the field as the Sooners pick up their first shutout NCAA game in program history defeating the UMBC Retrievers 12-0 in five innings on Friday night in the first round of the Norman Regional.
The Sooners are the No. 1 ranked softball team in the country coming into tonight’s matchup 49-2, 18-0 in Big 12 matchups, and riding a 39-game winning streak. Feb. 22 was the last time the Sooners lost a game where they fell to UCLA 1-7. Their only other loss came on Feb. 15 against Florida State falling 4-7.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County made its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2002 and only the program’s third overall appearance with a 30-22 record under first-year coach Chris Kuhlmeyer.
This is the Sooners’ 25th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament under head coach Patty Gasso, and after OU’s season ended prematurely falling to Washington in last year’s College World Series, the Sooners wasted zero time in tonight’s game as Giselle “G” Juarez took the mound to start the game off.
Juarez entered tonight’s game 22-0 in the season and holding the title of Big 12 Pitcher of the Year for 2019.
UMBC’s Julia Keffler came to home plate to lead things off for the Retrievers. Juarez uses four pitches to send Keffler back to the dugout and held UMBC scoreless as she retired Maddie Daigneau and Courtney Coppersmith immediately for three quick strikeouts.
As a true freshman, Coppersmith took the mound for the Retrievers making her 31st start of the season and hanging on to a 21-12 record.
Big 12 Player of the Year Sydney Romero took home plate to lead things off for the Sooners hitting a short ball on her first pitch outrunning her opponent for a single. Falepolima Aviu smacked a drive straight to 1st base picking up a Sooner out but advancing Romero to 2nd.
Caleigh Clifton allowed Coppersmith to get her first strikeout of the night moving sophomore Jocelyn Alo up to bat with two Sooner outs and Romero on 2nd. Alo hit a high pop over 1st base where second baseman Kaly Winslow allowed the ball to fall in play sending Romero home for the Sooners’ first run of the night.
Grace Green took home plate with two Sooner outs to send a pop to center field where the Retrievers retired the Sooners with a catch and a 1-0 deficit.
Juarez continued her dominance on the mound sending Sierra Pierce, Valerie Hammett, and Anna Lonchar 1-2-3 back to the dugout leaving the Sooners up 1-0 going into B2.
It was freshman Grace Lyons who was next up to put the Sooners on the board as she took home plate with two outs and knocked her 7th home run of the season for a 2 RBI. Both Shay Knighten and Lyons were able to touch home plate extending the Sooners to 3-0.
Caleigh Clifton kept the momentum for the Sooners going after Juarez had yet another perfect inning picking up her 6th strikeout of the game and keeping UMBC scoreless through three. Clifton launched a massive bomb over the wall after starting the game 0-1 for a 2 RBI sending herself and Aviu home to extend OU’s lead to 5-0 with zero outs in B3.
With Green on 2nd base and 1 out for the Sooners in B3, Nicole Mendes launched her 5th home run of the season over the bleachers in the outfield for OU’s third home run of the night, another 2 RBI, and marking this as the Sooners’ 100th home run of the season.
Mendes, who had zero home runs in the previous season, extended the Sooners to 7-0 bringing Shay Knighten up to bat and only one out for OU. Both Knighten and Lynnsie Elam are retired from pop catches, and the Sooners take the field for T4 riding a 7-0 lead.
Coach Gasso switched up her pitching after Juarez pitched three perfect innings and placed junior RHP Mariah Lopez on the mound for the Sooners.
“It’s important to get everyone out there on the mound,” Gasso said. “We have a good lead right now, and it’s time to see what Mariah can do.”
And just like clockwork, Lopez, who has 141 strikeouts in her time at Oklahoma, picked up three quick strikeouts putting UMBC back on the field scoreless for B4.
The Sooners picked up five more runs in B4 to extend their lead to 12-0, and UMBC was given one more chance to keep the game alive before it was declared a run-ruled game, but RHP Shannon Saile closed out in Sooner fashion picking up three consecutive strikeouts ending the game.
The Sooners defeated the UMBC Retrievers 12-0 advancing them to face Wisconsin, who defeated Notre Dame in the game before, tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. CST for Round 2 of the Norman Regional.
OU is 6-0 against Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament, and the last time the Sooners entered the Women’s College World Series at the No. 1 seed was in 2013 where they won the national title.
UMBC will fight for survival as they face Notre Dame tomorrow evening at 8:00 p.m. CST, and the winner of that game will have an opportunity at the championship game on Sunday. The loser will go home.