In the first inning Thursday night, Oklahoma’s Shelby Pendley launched her team-leading 18th home run of the season. A couple innings later, she tumbled head-first into the Alabama dugout trying to catch a foul popup.
And in the fifth inning, with Alabama’s bats torching the Sooners, Pendley moved from third base to the pitcher’s circle and didn’t allow a hit the rest of the game.
Effort and production have been the cornerstones of Pendley’s All-American season for the seventh-seeded Sooners, who need to embrace the attitude of their leader as they face elimination at the Women’s College World Series.
“She’s a competitor,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “The fact that she can play a great third base, I can bring her in to pitch… She can run well. She is a complete player.”
Pendley has a 1.73 earned-run average in 22 pitching appearances, which isn’t quite as impressive as her team-leading .429 batting average. And she was named to the Big 12 Conference All-Defensive team for her play at third base.
OU will take on Louisiana-Lafayette at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Hall of Fame Stadium, with the loser heading home. The winner advances to an 8:30 elimination game against top-seeded Oregon, which fell 4-0 to Florida on Friday night.
A junior, Pendley hadn’t pitched since high school, but with the Sooners in need of a secondary option behind starter Kelsey Stevens, Pendley volunteered.
“In high school, I didn’t really like pitching at all,” Pendley said. “We needed a pitcher and I brought it up, and Coach Gasso thought it was kind of funny. Then she had me doing a little tryout.”
Pendley made her pitching debut on a road trip to Lafayette, where the Sooners lost two of three games against the Ragin’ Cajuns in March.
Pendley struggled at the WCWS last year, but she has looked far more comfortable the second time around. And the Sooners need her to keep it up if they’re going to survive past Saturday at the WCWS.
“She loves that opportunity to compete,” Gasso said. “She is one of the better ones I've seen in a long time.”