By Corbin Hosler
NORMAN — The chant reaching near-deafening levels, Lauren Chamberlain finally realized what she was supposed to do.
Moments after blasting a three-run home run that broke open what had been a close regional final, the sophomore tepidly stepped up out of the dugout and waved to the home crowd, enjoying the first curtain call of her career.
“I’ve only ever seen it at baseball games,” Chamberlain said. “It was pretty cool.”
So cool, in fact, that most of the Sooners didn’t even know what the gesture was called when coach Patty Gasso asked them about it in the locker room after the Sooners completed a 14-1 victory over Arkansas to win the regional final and advance to next week’s Super Regional.
“I asked them if they had ever seen a curtain call in softball and they had no idea what I was talking about,” Gasso said.
Chamberlain, who finished the regional weekend with 13 RBIs, was the first Sooner to receive the honor on Sunday. But she wasn’t the last, as the standing-room crowd called back out several Sooners throughout the game to receive their admiration.
“I don’t know that our fans have always been as vocal, but they were on this weekend,” Gasso said. “It’s fun. Our crowd was great. You could feel them all weekend.”
They had reason to be. Capitalizing on an error in right field that allowed two runners to score and stretch OU’s lead to 3-0 in the third inning, the Sooners jumped on the Razorbacks. After Brianna Turang walked, Chamberlain followed up with a three-run shot that put the Sooners firmly in control.
And they didn’t let go. Despite several Arkansas pitching changes the Sooners continued to pour it on, adding another six runs in the fourth inning and two in the fifth, helped by home runs by Shelby Pendley and Javen Henson.
“Softball’s a big game of momentum, and as the season’s gone on we’ve gotten better at taking advantage when the other team makes a mistake,” Chamberlain said. “Our aggressive style allows us to do that as well. It’s also a testimony to our pitching. Everything was working on all cylinders.”
After OU (50-4) downed Arkansas (36-20) on Saturday, the Razorbacks bounced back to win Saturday night to make it to the championship round Sunday. And through the first two innings, Arkansas looked ready to upset the Sooners. The Razorbacks loaded the bases in the first inning against Ricketts before she responded by striking out two batters and forcing a groundout to end the threat. They also put a pair of runners on in the second but were unable to plate either.
But things fell apart in the third inning. A pair of walks set up the error that led to the big inning, and the Razorbacks committed another three errors in the game that gave the Sooners free runs. Of the 14 runs OU scored, only five were earned.
“Against a great team like Oklahoma, you can’t give them an opening,” Arkansas coach Mike Larabee said. “That’s what happened today and it kind of snowballed.”