MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

May 19, 2013

OU edges Razorbacks, moves to regional final

NORMAN — Arkansas didn’t panic.

Even down five runs and down to their final out in the sixth inning, the Razorbacks responded with a series of hits against Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Keilani Ricketts, scoring four runs to cut the Oklahoma lead to 6-5.

Luckily for the Sooners, neither did Michelle Gascoigne.

The senior came on in relief of Ricketts after the fourth run scored and Arkansas still with two runners in scoring position. Three pitches and one strikeout later, the threat was over.

And the rest of Gascoigne’s teammates took their cue from her. With two outs in the bottom half of inning, the Sooners loaded the bases for Lauren Chamberlain, who doubled off the center field wall to break open the game and set the stage for the Sooners’ 10-5 victory.

“I try to bring a closer mentality,” Gascoigne said. “It’s not common in softball to have a closer, so I try to take a baseball mentality out there. Keilani was working hard out there, and I wanted to come in and have her back.”

She did, and thanks to that the Sooners will find themselves in the regional championship game at 1 p.m. today, needing to win one of two games to advance to the super regional next week.

“That’s the experience of a team that was at the college world series last year,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “When Michelle came in and did her job you could feel that we knew we needed to do something. As long as we have one out to play with, everyone’s locked in and ready to play hard.”

On Saturday, the Sooners had contributions from every part of the lineup. Though Chamberlain led the way with five RBIs for the second straight day, she had plenty of help. Brittany Williams went 3 for 3 with two RBIs, including a solo home run in the third inning, and the bottom of the lineup again came through for the Sooners late in the game.

With two outs in the sixth and clinging to a 6-5 lead, defensive replacement Javen Henson came to the plate and singled to left field. Destinee Martinez followed that up with a hit and Callie Parsons then doubled in a run. Brianna Turang followed with a walk, setting the table for Chamberlain’s three-run shot off the wall to secure the win.

“They’re finding ways to keep the rally alive,” Gasso said. “Javen coming off the bench like that was big-time for us. Our 7-8-9, they find ways to get on. It was a tag-team effort.”

The win was the second of the regional for the Sooners (49-4), and leaves them one win short of the regional title. Playing on the hottest day of the season, it came on a muggy afternoon that left both sides drained by the end of the contest.

“It was a hard-fought game for us, and a clutch performance for us as well,” Gasso said. “Our athletes know the importance of this game and what it does for us in terms of getting to rest and getting out of the heat.”

Arkansas returned to the field at 6 p.m. Saturday to play Fordham in an elimination game and defeated the Rams 5-2 to advance to the regional final.

The Razorbacks face the Sooners again at 1 p.m. today, needing to beat OU twice to keep their season alive.

Chloe Oprzedek had the big night at the plate for the Razorbacks. She went 3-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and also played a superb defensive game at third base. Stephanie Canfield also tallied two hits, increasing her total to seven on the weekend, and drove in two runs.

Hope McLemore entered the game in the sixth inning for Arkansas (36-19) and allowed one run on one hit. She replaced Kimmy Beasley (12-8), who allowed one run on four hits and struck out three to pick up her second save of the year. Beasley received the win and McLemore picked up the save in the game.

– Corbin Hosler, CNHI, contributed to this report

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