Softball is back in a big way as the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners completely dominated the field at the GCU Kickoff Tournament in Phoenix, AZ. OU is now 5-0 after three days of competition to open the 2019 season.
For a team having to replace the likes of Paige Parker and Paige Lowary, Patty Gasso’s latest squad hasn’t missed a beat. If anything, these Sooners already appear to be in mid-season form.
In Game 1 against Syracuse, junior pitcher Mariah Lopez only allowed one hit in the shutout performance, while striking-out a career-high 12 of the Orange batters. Sophomore Lynnsie Elam and freshman Grace Green both added a pair of hits at the plate in what culminated towards a 6-0 Oklahoma win.
The second portion of Friday’s double-header pit the Sooners against Grand Canyon. After giving up a solo home run to GCU in the bottom of the first, the Sooners’ defense clamped down the rest of the way until a six-run flood in the fifth pushed the Crimson & Cream out in front for good. Newcomer Giselle “G” Juarez got things started for Oklahoma in the circle, pitching the first four innings, then fellow junior transfer Shannon Saile closed out the final three frames. The highlight of the contest came in the seventh, when senior Caleigh Clifton blasted OU’s first homer of the season, capping off the 7-1 victory.
On Saturday, Oklahoma was in for another double-header in the GCU Tourney, this time versus Charlotte and, once again, Syracuse. Against the 49ers, the Sooners rushed out to a blazing-hot start, scoring seven runs in the first and five over the next two frames. Lopez got the start in the circle and repeated her one-hit shutout performance with another one. At the plate, seniors Shay Knighten and Raegan Rogers knocked a couple out of the park while the rookie Green recorded the first dinger of her collegiate career. In the end, it was a 13-0 run-rule victory in favor of the Sooners.
Next up on the day was Syracuse, and Oklahoma used yet another seven-run inning to blow the game wide open, this time in the fourth. Rogers added a second homer in as many games, while Juarez and Saile combined for three strikeouts and gave up just a single run between them. The Sooners cruised in run-rule fashion en route to a 9-1 W.
In the final matchup of the weekend, OU took on San Diego State early Sunday morning. Saile got her first start in a Sooner uniform and showed just how deep the pitching unit is in Norman this season. On the day, she only allowed one hit while fanning eight of the Aztecs’ batters. Four SDSU defensive errors compounded the gap in talent they faced against Oklahoma, and OU freshman Grace Lyons and Clifton cranked back-to-back home runs in the second inning for a comfortable lead the rest of the way. The Sooners went on to win 9-0 by way of a third straight run-rule victory.
So far on the season, sophomore Jocelyn Alo leads the team with eight hits through five games, while Raegan Rogers’ mark of seven RBI and Caleigh Clifton’s two homers pace the Sooners. In the circle, Lopez is 2-0 with two shutouts and has struck out 22 batters in 12.0 innings pitched.
Up next, Oklahoma travels east for the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational starting on Thursday, Feb. 14. The Sooners open things up against Kentucky, with a contest versus reigning Women’s College World Series Champion Florida State scheduled for Friday. It’s a deep field and should provide another litmus test for this promising Sooner squad.
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