OU softball: Sooners shut out Northwestern in super regional opener
NORMAN — The big blast never came, the ball stayed in the yard, but Oklahoma still pummeled Northwestern using a series of well-timed jabs instead of its signature roundhouse.
The Sooners finally wore down the left arm of Northwestern freshman Danielle Williams. It just took a third time through the order.
“With this team, you just wait until it happens,” OU coach Patty Gasso said of her club. “And that’s what we did.”
There was a spot in the red padding of left-center field that OU turned into a punching bag. It’s where Jocelyn Alo lined a run-scoring double in the first. In the fifth inning, it’s where Sydney Romero and Caleigh Clifton smacked two more doubles that led to two more runs.
No. 1 seed Oklahoma is a win away from the Women’s College World Series after beating 16th-seeded Northwestern 3-0 Friday afternoon at Marita Hynes Field.
While Giselle Juarez continues her spree of shutouts, the Sooner offense isn’t routinely posting the double-digit run numbers it did throughout the regular season. Yet there’s still a relentless nature about them even in a three-hit game — OU’s lowest total since Feb. 23 against Arizona.
Seven of the nine batters in OU’s lineup are hitting north of .325. Five are hitting .375 or better. OU continues to lead the nation in team batting average, slugging percentage and home runs per game.
Williams, one of three finalists for National Freshman of the Year, effectively changed speeds and kept the Sooners “out of sorts,” as Gasso described it. She notched six strikeouts while throwing 110 pitches over five innings.
But as Romero led off the fifth inning with the heart of the order behind her, the Sooners turned pitch recognition into runs. The pair of doubles were followed by a walk, then a stolen base and then an error as a third run crossed the plate.
Romero said there had been a change in game plan before the fifth inning. Asked about the altered approach, Romero smiled and decided not to share. Gasso, leaning into her microphone, was ready to intercede had she answered.
OU has averaged just 2.5 runs in its last four games, but Gasso came away more encouraged than she was last weekend in the wins against Wisconsin.
“We’re in postseason,” Gasso said. “You are not blowing people out. Because everybody, if they are here and still alive, they have really good pitching. It’s not saying, ‘Wow, we didn’t get nine hits.’ It’s just finding a way to manufacture runs … Right now, it’s not the numbers. It’s all about getting the ‘W.’”