NORMAN — Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso couldn’t provide any update on superstar Lauren Chamberlain’s status for Friday’s NCAA regional opener against Bryant.
Chamberlain has a partially torn PCL in her knee, and whether she plays or not will be entirely up to her, Gasso said.
“I don’t even know right now,” Gasso said when asked who on her deep squad might step up for Chamberlain. “There’s lots of options. We’re not quite sure where we would go with that yet, but everybody’s prepared.”
Of course, playing without Chamberlain — and adjusting on the fly — isn’t anything the defending national champion Sooners aren’t used to. She missed 23 games with a back injury between March and late April, and senior Brittany Williams has done a nice job filling in at first base. Gasso said her team has been “a makeshift kind of group” all season, yet here it is, hosting another NCAA regional with its eye on a fourth straight Women’s College World Series appearance.
OU opens regional play at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and faces either Texas A&M or Hofstra on Saturday.
Perhaps the greatest example of Oklahoma’s ability to adapt as the season has gone along is Shelby Pendley’s pitching. The junior has made 18 appearances in the circle this season with a 1.50 ERA, despite not having pitched since high school.
One of the most valuable batters on the team, Pendley went to Gasso earlier this season and volunteered to pitch when Oklahoma was in a slump.
“I was kinda like, ‘OK, whatever,’” Gasso said with a laugh. “But when you have an athlete like this that says something, you’ve gotta listen.
“We snuck her into the indoor (facility) and she threw a little bit. She looked really smooth. Her mechanics were very easy and fluid, and she had good spin for not throwing for so long.”
Pendley, from Rio Rancho, N.M., said it took a couple weeks for her to fully adapt to pitching again, but that she’s enjoyed it.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed it from pitching in high school until now,” Pendley said. “It’s a different feeling. You’re in control every single pitch, whereas at third (base), not so much.”
Against Bryant, the Sooners will be a heavy favorite. The Smithfield, R.I., school is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Northeast Conference Championship last week.
“The whole team is extremely excited to have this opportunity,” said Bryant coach Shayne Lotito. “Our goal is to compete. I’m not gonna say we’re gonna take them down; I’m not gonna say we’re gonna lose. But this team will compete (Friday).”