NORMAN — Oklahoma kicked off its title defense in style on Friday night.
Entering the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1-overall seed, the Sooners easily dispatched the Prairie View A&M Panthers 14-0 at Marita Hynes Field.
“Really happy with what this team did tonight,” OU head coach Patty Gasso said after the game. “That kind of set of new standard for us. Every part of the game was working for us.”
With true freshman Jordy Bahl still battling through arm soreness, sophomore pitcher Nicole May took the circle and shined.
Completing four innings of work, May struck out seven batters and allowed no hits and just one walk before Gasso withdrew her from the game.
“Nicole May has had the experience,” Gasso said. “She carried us along last year so we feel very confident with her. And she’s leading this pitching staff.”
In support of May, Oklahoma’s offense started the contest off with a bang.
Jayda Coleman, back in the leadoff spot for the Sooners (50-2), was hit on the hand by a pitch to immediately give OU a threat on the base paths.
In the ensuing at-bat, Jocelyn Alo battled to a full-count, and drew a walk. Gasso had Coleman on the move ahead of the walk, however, and
Panthers (20-29) catcher Biviana Figueroa needlessly threw down to second base toward Coleman. Figueroa missed her target, sending the ball skidding into center field and allowing Coleman to steal third base.
Gasso kept the foot on the gas, and the Sooners scored without sophomore star Tiare Jennings needing to swing the bat.
Alo was instructed to steal second, but this time Figueroa’s throw arrived in plenty of time. Prairie View A&M had Alo caught in a rundown, and while Alo was tagged out, Coleman was able to steal home to take the 1-0 lead.
But on the next pitch, Jennings launched a moonshot over the scoreboard and toward the fans gathered behind the walls of Marita Hynes Field in Home Run Village.
Had Alo just stayed on first, OU would have added an extra run, but the Sooners still gleefully took the 2-0 lead at the end of the first inning.
The Sooners were unable to build on the early lead, logging three straight pop-ups in the second inning.
A week ago after the Big 12 Championship, Gasso said her team’s approach was too “heroic” in trying to chase the game against Oklahoma State.
On Friday night, Gasso was proud of how her team responded, immediately correcting course after making similar mistakes in the second inning.
“We had a little talk after the second inning,” Gasso said. “We had three fly outs, consecutive fly outs, which amounted to nothing. And that you can’t have in the postseason.
“So we talked about really learning from what’s happening in front of you… And they responded. Teams that can respond on a dime are teams you can win with. And this team knows how to do that.”
Coleman reached base on an infield single to start the frame, and then stole second.
The extra base was all Alo would need to drive home the run, as the super senior singled up the middle to plate Coleman and extend the lead to 3-0.
Lynnsie Elam then drove in a couple of runs with two outs, firing a hard-hit grounder up the left field line.
Later in the inning, alert base running by Elam capped off the frame as the catcher stole home on a wild pitch to extend the lead to 6-0.
Alo said the third inning sparked the team, and she liked the adjustments the entire lineup made to dial in on the Panther pitchers.
“I thought it was really good,” she said. “The offense was just doing what we do best and just controlling the strike zone and trying to hit the ball hard.”
While May cruised in the circle, the Sooner offense ensured the contest wouldn’t go the distance in the fourth inning.
Coleman continued her stellar outing, driving in Taylon Snow with an RBI-single. The OU center fielder then had the best seat in the house, as Alo barreled a no-doubter well over Coleman’s head into the right field bleachers to push the lead to 9-0.
Not to be outdone, shortstop Grace Lyons rocketed a two-run blast of her own later in the inning.
True freshman Turiya Coleman also got in on the action, hitting her first career home run and driving in Hannah Coor and Sophia Nugent to put the cherry on top of the eight-run fourth inning.
Turiya Coleman received a loud curtain call from the sellout crowd at Marita Hynes Field, but the Sooner fans weren’t the only ones elated by the three-run shot.
“It was definitely the highlight of my night to see TC (Turiya Coleman) hit a home run,” Alo said. “I teared up when she hit it.”
Hope Trautwein entered in the top of the fifth inning to close out the combined no-hitter, adding a pair of strikeouts in the process.
Oklahoma will return to action in the Norman Regional Saturday at 1 p.m., as Oklahoma will meet Texas A&M in a winner’s bracket battle. The winner of the contest will advance to Sunday’s Regional Final and will have two chances to punch a ticket to next weekend’s Super Regional.
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