No. 13 Sooners Rally Past Jayhawks, 5-2
NORMAN, Okla. For six and one-third innings, Kansas softball was in control of its Big 12 Conference opener against nationally-ranked Oklahoma, but the No. 13 Sooners rallied past the Jayhawks in the final inning to escape with a 5-2 victory on Friday night at Marita Hynes Field.
KU began league action with a pitcher’s duel between Kansas’ sophomore Andie Formby and OU’s sophomore Paige Parker. The duo entered the Friday night contest with matching 11-3 records in the circle. Both pitchers put zeroes on the scoreboard and fended off offensive attacks until the fifth inning.
In the fifth, Kansas struck first to take the lead, 2-0, after junior designated player Taylor Dodson hit a home run just past the fence in centerfield. Dodson’s home run was one of three KU hits recorded. OU answered the Jayhawks’ two runs in the bottom of the seventh. Although Kansas was two outs away from upsetting the Sooners at home, Oklahoma wouldn’t go away and continued to apply pressure. OU worked the bases loaded before second baseman Caleigh Clifton delivered a walk-off grand slam.
“For six innings, we did an excellent job,” said head coach Megan Smith. “Andie (Formby) threw really well. She got herself into some jams, but fought through them early in the game and in the middle of the game. We fought really hard for six innings and that last inning, obviously, is going to live a bad taste in our mouth.”
Both teams had a runner reach via base on balls in the first inning and each displayed dazzling defensive plays to retire the side. In the top half of the inning, Oklahoma turned two to end KU’s threat, while Kansas’ redshirt sophomore Harli Ridling gunned a runner down at second base attempting to steal.
In the top of the second, junior utility Lily Behrmann drew a walk, giving Kansas a runner on board for the second-straight inning. Ridling advanced the runner with single to left field, however Parker retired the side with her second strikeout of the game.
Formby surrendered her first hit of the game in the third inning, a single through the right side from sophomore outfielder Nicole Pendley. Pendley advanced as far as third base before junior second baseman Taylor McElhaney turned a double play to end the frame and keeping the ballgame tied, 0-0.
Oklahoma threatened again in the fourth frame with a pair of base runners and two outs. Formby fought back from behind in the count, 1-3, to record her second strikeout and end the inning unscathed. Kansas headed to the fifth inning tied, 0-0.
Sophomore third baseman Jessie Roane led off the fifth with a single down the left line. Dodson hit the ball to dead centerfield and without room to spare missed the OU outfielder’s glove for KU’s 36th home run of the season. Dodson’s third long ball of 2016 plated a pair of KU runs, giving the Jayhawks a 2-0 advantage after four and half innings.
“Taylor (Dodson) has been doing really well and has been real focused at practice,” Smith said. “Her first at-bat wasn’t a great one, but she was locked in and really came through for us in the second one.”
Formby worked around a leadoff base hit in the bottom of the fifth. The Orange, California native retired the next three batters to end the inning and tossing her fifth-straight scoreless frame. During the next inning, the Sooners applied the pressure by loading the bases, however, Formby took care of business by inducing a pop up and striking out the next batter to keep Oklahoma scoreless for the sixth inning in a row.
“We were in control of the game and in the seventh inning we didn’t play like we were in control,” said Smith. “It’s disappointing, but we’ve got a lot of young student-athletes out there that’ll learn from that and hopefully we can bounce back tomorrow.”
Shortstop Kelsey Arnold led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to third base for OU. She came all the way home on a KU’s uncharacteristic third error of the game. Arnold’s run scored cut the Jayhawk lead, 2-1. Before Oklahoma could load the bases, Formby and Kansas’ defense recorded the first out of the frame. Despite the out, KU couldn’t halt the Sooners offensive momentum as Clifton’s walk-off home run sealed the victory for OU, 5-2.
The Jayhawks continues their three-game series against Oklahoma to start Big 12 Conference play on Saturday, April 2 at 1 p.m. The game will air on the Jayhawk Radio Network and Sooner Sports TV.
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