NORMAN — Oklahoma sophomore pitcher Kelsey Stevens allowed a grand slam in each of the Sooners’ first two regional games last weekend.
Over the course of Oklahoma’s three-game regional sweep, opponents from Bryant and Texas A&M scored a total of 16 earned runs and blasted six homers off the Sooners’ starting pitcher.
And OU coach Patty Gasso thinks Stevens is better for it.
“I think one of the best things that could’ve happened is what happened last weekend, because now she’s got that out of the way,” Gasso said.
The Sooners begin Super Regional play Friday night at home against Tennessee in a rematch of last year’s Women’s College World Series championship series, when OU had all-time great Keilani Ricketts in the circle. This year, the Sooners will be counting on Stevens, who transferred after spending her freshman year at Stanford.
Stevens, an Albuquerque, N.M., native, was 15-7 with a 2.99 ERA in her one season at Stanford before joining the Sooners last offseason. She’s made 51 appearances in 2014 with a 35-7 record and 2.42 ERA.
“It really just helps me work through situation,” Stevens said of her regional struggles. “Anything can happen in the postseason. Everybody’s gonna come out to play, so it was a good experience for me to work through that.
“Texas A&M had very good hitters, and I think it’s gonna be similar to Tennessee. It was good for preparation.”
One thing Stevens certainly has working in her favor is the Sooners’ deep, powerful lineup that includes players such as Shelby Pendley and Lauren Chamberlain.
Pendley and Stevens have a lot in common. Both transferred to OU for their sophomore seasons after playing their freshmen campaigns in Pac-12 country. Pendley was a 2012 All-Pac-12 selection after her one year at Arizona before transferring to OU.
“I think she is new, kind of like Shelby went through it a little bit last year,” Gasso said. “New to this team, and expectations high, and maybe putting unnecessary pressure on themselves, and Shelby figured it out. (Stevens) is smart and understands, ‘OK, that’s waste of my time to feel that way.’
“I have all the confidence in the world, regardless of if she’s on her game or not because one thing that she knows how to do is answer. She won’t quit. You wanna hit the ball hard off her, she’ll come back and answer the next hitter, and the next and the next.”
Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly said she’s spent the last week breaking down game film of the Sooners. She is impressed with the way Stevens competes.
“She keeps her team in the ballgame,” Weekly said. “She helps her team win. She does exactly what they need her to do, which is, don’t give up free passes, and just gives them a chance to win every time.”