NORMAN- Returning home for the first time all season, the No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners had to manufacture offense to beat the Sam Houston State Bearkats 7-0 at Marita Hynes Field.
"We were looking at cardboard cutouts for the last week, and there's not a lot of sound that came out of those cardboard cutouts, so it was nice to just hear people in the stands," Patty Gasso said after the game. "You could hear our team saying 'let's hit up the fans,' and they'd come out and just do their Boomer cheer, and to get feedback that way, the team was really amped tonight."
Only hitting one home run, Oklahoma battered the Bearkats pitchers for 11 hits en route to the victory.
Freshman pitcher Nicole May blanked the Bearkats, keeping the pressure off the offense and striking out eight batters in 5.0 innings pitched.
"It feels really good to be playing at home, especially against a team rather than our own," May said. "Before the game I did a lot of self talk and was just reminding myself that the team has my back no matter what."
Jayda Coleman, another freshman, led things off for the OU hitters on a hard-hit double. Taking advantage of a wild pitch to steal third, Tiare Jennings drove Coleman home on a fielder’s choice to give Oklahoma the lead.
Though connecting on a few of Bearkats pitcher Christine Billmeier’s pitches, the Sooners had to wait until the third inning to strike again.
Gasso said the team didn't let the hard hit balls that stayed in the park phase them.
"We're not in the desert, you could feel that," she said. "I think they are mature enough to understand that. The air is a little bit different than it was, the wind was a factor.
"But their maturity and understanding that they are hitting the ball hard, and that's what it's about. And eventually if you're continuing to hit the ball hard, it's going to get through and you're going to score some runs, it just took us a little longer than in the past."
Taylon Snow continued to keep the OU bats hot, starting off the third with a triple, roped in between first baseman Ellie Grill and the bag, which rolled all the way to the outfield wall. OU slugger Jocelyn Alo would drive her home two batters later, again on a fielder’s choice.
Finally Oklahoma went deep in the bottom of the fourth inning.
After Grace Lyons was already driven in by Kinzie Hansen, Lynssie Elam roped a line-drive to left field, sneaking it over the wall to extend the OU lead to 4-0.
Kinzie Donihoo drove in another run in the bottom of the fifth off her pinch-hit grounder up the middle, plating Jana Johns to again widen the lead for the Sooners.
Jennings again drove Coleman home, and Lyons’ sacrifice fly brought Alo home to pour on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth.
"It's a special moment for me, being with the girls and team was very fun," Jennings said. "Their energy was high and just looking at the crowd and seeing my family there just made it also very special."
Leading the way, Snow finished 2-for-3, and Jennings drove in two runs on her 2-for-4 hitting performance.
Games like this will go a long way in ensuring the Sooners remain a well-rounded team, Gasso said.
"I don't want everyone to think that all we do is hit home runs," she said. "We're a team that can do a lot of things well offensively, and I just have to keep putting those in part of our game plan, otherwise a team's just going to have their backs against the wall and not worry about anything else."
Oklahoma’s only real flaw was leaving 10 runners stranded on base, something they can endeavor to resolve when they take the field again tomorrow against Missouri and Louisiana Monroe.
First pitch against the Tigers is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. from Marita Hynes Field in Norman.
"It's been a long year. I mean, really literally close to a year since we were pulled off the field," Gasso said. "So this is a big celebration for us. Wether there are 80 people in the stands or 1,800, it doesn't matter. We just want to play, and they showed up tonight."