STILLWATER - A standing-room-only crowd packed into Cowgirl Stadium on Saturday afternoon hoping to see history.
If the No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowgirls upset No. 1-ranked Oklahoma for the second straight day, they would clinch the Big 12 regular season title, ending OU’s streak of eight straight.
The stocked “Corrals” holding the OSU fans past the left field fence would have to wait another day, however, as the Sooners rebounded with a dramatic 6-4 win in Game 2.
With the bases full, nobody out and the winning run at home plate, freshman pitcher Nicole May finished it off for the Sooners with two fly balls and a strikeout.
"Quite an intense game, that's for sure," OU head coach Patty Gasso said after the game. "The team clutched up when they needed to. I was really excited to see that.
"Ultimately, we needed something like that."
For the second straight day, Oklahoma opened the scoring.
Having to manufacture runs, Jana Johns and Mackenzie Donihoo set the tone in the third inning, drawing back-to-back walks.
Senior Nicole Mendes grounded into a fielder’s choice, advancing Johns to third and setting the table for Jayda Coleman as the Sooner lineup rolled over to the top.
Coleman connected on Kelly Maxwell’s second pitch, driving Johns home with a hard-hit single to right field.
"These are the games that you live for," Coleman said after the game. "As a softball player, you grow up wanting to be in these type of situations playing your rival team.
"It's just the best feeling ever just being able to compete against a team that wants to compete. It was awesome."
After Coleman's 1-for-3 outing at the plate in Game 1, Gasso opted to move her up to the top of the batting order to help provide a spark for OU in Game 2.
"She's a gamer," Gasso said of Coleman. "She is just a gamer who loves to win, and I don't see her being very fearful of anything."
In the next at-bat, Sooner slugger Jocelyn Alo doubled to drive home another run, extending OU’s lead to 2-0.
In the top of the fifth inning, Lynnsie Elam’s two-RBI single double the Sooner lead, as Oklahoma continued to put runners on base against Maxwell.
The Cowgirls would strike back in the bottom half of the inning. Karli Petty reached base on a walk, and then a throwing error complicated things for the Sooners.
OSU left fielder Chelsea Alexander laid down a bunt, but a throwing error in front of home plate sent the ball up the right field line, allowing Petty to round the bases and make it all the way home and Alexander to arrive safely at third. The ensuing batter brought Alexander home, as Kiley Naomi’s sacrifice fly cut the OU lead in half.
The four runs would be all the support Shannon Saile needed, as she was excellent in the circle for Oklahoma.
"They've got a lineup that can swing it, and they're tough to get through," Gasso said. "Shannon, she had a few control problems but I think she bowed up more than I had ever seen her display this year."
Striking out six batters, Saile only really struggled when issuing the Cowgirl batters free passes. She surrendered four walks, and hit two other batters. But when she was hitting the strike zone, she was a force. The Cowgirls logged four hits off of Saile in her six innings of work.
Mendes put the cherry on the top of the OU win with a solo blast in the top of the sixth inning.
Tempers flared from the Oklahoma dugout later in the inning.
As Coleman tried to take third, she was called out after TV replays showed Cowgirl third baseman Shelby Pennington appeared to push Coleman’s hand off the bag.
Gasso disagreed, and was ejected from the contest as she argued the call, only serving to fire up her team and the Sooner fans who made the trip up for Saturday’s game.
"I slide into third, the umpire made a call and I just had to shake it off," Coleman said.
Not that they needed the cue, the full-throated away fans made their presence felt all afternoon, and the atmosphere should crank up another notch on Sunday when the two teams meet in the de facto Big 12 regular season title game in Stillwater.
Gasso said she actually was unsure of where she was supposed to head after getting ejected.
"It's been quite a while for me to even know what to do," she said.
After clearing the dugout, she was eventually led back to the team bus where she listened to the rest of the game on the radio.
The Sooners forged on without Gasso, as associate head coach Jen Rocha took the reins to close out the game.
Elam scored for Oklahoma in the top of the seventh off a Grace Green double, a run which proved crucial.
In the bottom of the inning, Oklahoma State would stage one last rally.
Petty homered to start the inning and make the score 6-3, and then chaos ensued for the OU pitching staff. Olivia Raines came in for Saile, who left a runner on first, and walked the bases loaded with no outs.
Raines was quickly withdrawn and the Sooners turned back to May to try and get OU out of the jam.
Alysen Febrey recorded the first out of the inning with a sacrifice fly to right center, driving in Alexander.
But May closed the game strong for Oklahoma with a popup and a strikeout, leveling the weekend series at one game apiece.
Coleman said they treated the loss on Friday as a reset button for the series.
"I believe in this team. I believe in each and every player 100 percent," she said. "I knew that we would respond, and I'm just so proud of my team for responding today."
Gasso said she's excited for now the win-or-go-home stakes in Sunday's regular season finale will prepare her team for the postseason.
"There's a lot on the line obviously and that is what postseason is like," she said. "There are times when your back is against the wall and if you want to continue your season, you've got to find a way to get it done."
First pitch for the Mother’s Day Bedlam decider is scheduled for 11 a.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
"It's going to be exciting. It's going to be a dogfight," Coleman said. "It's better this way. I love this competition that we're about to have tomorrow."