NORMAN — Oklahoma’s softball team found itself in a very unfamiliar spot Friday evening — behind on the scoreboard in an NCAA Regional game.
But sophomore pitcher Kelsey Stevens calmed down, the Sooner bats caught fire and the defending national champions run-ruled Bryant 14-4 in five innings on Marita Hynes Field to open the 2014 postseason.
“They just know how to respond,” said OU coach Patty Gasso. “A lot of this is, I think, attributed to the experience they’ve had in postseason. All of these athletes are pretty well-versed in what it’s like to play in these kind of games and what it takes.”
The Sooners (46-10, 16-2 Big 12) will face Texas A&M on Saturday at 1 p.m. for a spot in Sunday’s regional title game. The Aggies advanced with a 7-6 victory over Hofstra earlier Friday.
Oklahoma loaded the bases with three singles to open its half of the first inning, and senior Brittany Williams singled in two runs to give the Sooners an early lead.
But Bryant — the Smithfield, R.I., school making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance — fought back in the top of the second. Stevens walked three straight Bryant players before catcher Kendall Corder blasted a grand slam over the left-field fence to give her team a 4-2 lead. It was Corder’s first home run of the season.
“We had a little bump in the road there in the second,” Gasso said. “Bryant did a good job of taking advantage of it, big time.
“But what I love about this team is they know how to answer, and they did that in a big way.”
The Sooners responded with an eight-run bottom of the second that effectively crushed Bryant’s chance at an upset. Second baseman Georgia Casey’s RBI single started the Sooners’ onslaught, followed immediately by junior third baseman Shelby Pendley’s three-run home run, her 14th of the season.
With a comfortable lead in the third inning, Stevens struck out two batters and forced a flyout.
“We felt pretty confident,” said senior Brittany Williams. “We knew we had Kelsey’s back all the way. She did her job on the mound. We did our jobs with the bats.”
The Sooners, seeking their fourth-straight Women’s College World Series appearance, haven’t trailed in an NCAA Regional contest since 2011.
Oklahoma’s victory is particularly impressive considering it was again without superstar Lauren Chamberlain, who sat out Friday’s game with a knee injury.
Chamberlain also missed 23 games during the season with a back injury.
“I think it’s extremely helpful that we’ve learned how to play without her,” Gasso said. “I think if this just happened, there might be a whole different feeling.”
Chamberlain warmed up with the team before the game, and Gasso said she’s “more than hopeful” that the junior slugger will return to the lineup Saturday.
“You can probably expect to see her playing tomorrow,” Gasso added.