NORMAN — Entering Saturday night, Oregon State was the only team in the Norman Regional that had not yet taken its shot at Oklahoma.
The Beavers will get that chance Sunday afternoon after successfully working their way through the losers' bracket on Saturday by topping Lehigh 9-2 and Tulsa 2-1 in back-to-back games at the OU Softball Complex.
Oregon State (36-22) will need to beat the No. 4 Sooners (47-8) twice on their home field to advance to next week's Super Regional round. The first game is at 1 p.m., and an “if necessary” game will follow if the Beavers win the first contest.
The loss ends TU's season at 42-14 after winning the Conference USA regular-season and tournament titles. Lehigh, the Patriot League champion, finished its season at 40-19 after going 0-2 in Regional play.
Much like Oregon State's wild 11-inning loss to TU the previous night, Saturday's matchup with the Golden Hurricane came down to the final inning. But this time, it was the Beavers who struck early and then fended off a late comeback attempt by TU.
Trailing 2-1 entering the seventh, TU's Shelby Blanton and Jessica Stoelke led off the inning with a double and walk, respectively, and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Cassidy Bowen. But neither of them scored, as Oregon State reliever Paige Hall struck out Julie Kernan and got Caitlin Everett to fly out to center to end the game.
“We had a great chance in the last inning and just couldn't pull it off,” TU coach John Bargfeldt said.
Said Oregon State shortstop Elizabeth Santana: “Every ball, every strike was just on edge. But we trusted that the pitcher was going to throw her best pitch, and we were going to field it to our best ability.”
The Beavers got two runs in the first inning off Aimee Creger, a pitcher they saw in four innings of relief Friday, when Hannah Bouska brought Dani Gilmore home on a double to left and Lea Cavestany added an RBI single.
“When (Creger) came in (Friday), it was the complete opposite of what we faced the rest of the game (against TU ace Lacey Middlebrooks),” Gilmore said. “(Saturday), we definitely focused on having disciplined at-bats and focusing on what we wanted to hit and picking a pitch we wanted to go for. That was a huge deal.”
And that proved to be enough offense for the Beavers, as Marina Demore allowed one run on five hits in six innings in relief of starter Tina Andreana.
As a member of the Pac-12, Oregon State is no stranger to stiff competition. This season, the Beavers have beaten nine top-25 teams, including defending national champion Arizona State, Oregon (twice), Washington (twice) and Arizona.
Santana said her team is ready for the next challenge in facing the Sooners.
“They're going to be aggressive,” she said of OU. “They put good bat on ball, and their pitching is really good, too. But I think we match up just as well. We're a scrappy team and we'll do anything and everything to get a run. We've proven that so far.”