Game 1: UIC 5-0 Sooners
The Sooners opened their first home series of the season with University of Illinois Chicago on Friday afternoon. Sooner fans showed up more than 2 hours early to stand in line. Nicole May started in the circle for the Sooners. A lineup change of note Quincee Lillio playing 2nd base in lieu of Tiare Jennings. This is my first time seeing Nicole May in person this season, there is noticeable more zip. Whether there is more MPH or not, I’m not sure of but it’s a heavy ball. UIC had trouble catching up to May early as she struck out two and got weak contact to 2nd for a groundout in the 1st.
Jayda Coleman exhibiting her usual patience worked a 2-1 count before hitting a laser over the wall for a HR to lead off the bottom of the first. That’s all the Sooners would get in the first inning. May worked around a leadoff single and a 2 out walk for a scoreless 2nd inning. Alyssa Brito started off 2nd with a walk but was caught too far off the bag on what appeared to possibly be a hit and run and was thrown out. Torres hit a jam shot that still made it to the wall but was caught. Riley Boone grounded out too short to end the 2nd. To start the third, May was pounding the zone, she induced a foul out to right, got a swinging strikeout, and a weak pop up to shallow left. The struggles for Cydney Sanders continue as she strikes out swinging. Jayda Coleman is absolutely on fire right now, she smoked a 2 out double off the wall in right which might have been knocked down by the right to left crosswind. A fantastic play by the UIC SS in the hole retired Lyons and kept the run off the board
After a leadoff walk, May comes back with back to back K’s to give her 7. The Sooners starting show some better patience as Erickson leads off the 4th with a walk. Hanson pinch hits and enters the game for Nugent as the Sooners offense has gone quiet. She grounded into a fielders choice which brings up another pinch hitter in Tiare Jennings. After a long at bat and spoiling several pitches Jennings popped up to 2nd for the second out. Torres chased and a groundout ended the inning. Newly inserted Jordy Bahl makes a nice snag on a sinking liner to start the 5th. Nicole May is putting up serious strikeout numbers as she gets her 8th and 9th to end the inning.
Riley Boone is her usual self and leads off the inning with a bunt single. Haley Lee entered the game as a pinch hitter and hammers a home run to right! You could feel the energy in the stadium buzz with the Boone single. Bahl works a walk with a long at bat and Coleman continued her hot day with a bunt single only needing a triple for the cycle. The Sooners got 2 on and 2 out after the HR and were unable to plate any more runs. After a strange swinging bunt single that stopped halfway on the chalk and a sac bunt; another fantastic Jumpman play at second for Jennings for the second out. Nicole May had an absolute day ringing up her 10th strikeout of the day to end the inning. After a leadoff walk to Jennings, and a ground out by Torres, Riley Boone went hunting and crushed the first pitch to the tennis courts in right for a 2 run HR. May started the 7th with another strikeout to give her 11. 2 groundouts end the game 5-0 Sooners. The Flames played extremely well, but the Sooners proved to be too much.
Game 2: Kentucky 18-0 Sooners (5)
Starting against 14th ranked Kentucky is Alex Storako coming off a masterful performance against UCLA on Sunday. She started the game off with a scoreless first inning and finished it with a strikeout looking with exhuberance. Jayda Coleman stays red hot with a double and scores on the Tiare Jennings single down the left field line. A Kinzie Hanson infield single and stolen base put 2 in scoring position for Jocelyn Erickson. After a long battle to a full count and beyond Erickson lines one up the middle to score 2 and make it 3-0 Sooners. In the top of the second Storako worked a clean inning with only one hard hit ball but it was right at Jennings.
A one out walk to Boone lead to an eventual grand slam from Kenzie Hanson to give the Sooners a 7-0 lead. A clean 3rd for Storako due to some slick defense behind her with Brito and Lyons making nice plays. Sooners went quiet in the bottom of the 3rd. The top of the 4th went quickly as Storako worked a clean inning. I’m running out of adjectives to describe how hot Jayda Coleman has been. After an attempted bunt I turned to my colleague and said if she swings the bat it might go out. The next pitch she cranked out to right center for her 3rd HR of the season. A walk to Jennings was the final straw for Sullivan and the Wildcats brought in Sloan Gayan to pitch.
It really didn’t matter as Sophia Nugent sent a ball into orbit. Cydney Sanders just missed one but it popped out of the left fielders glove and over the fence. Really hoping for her sake that busts her out of her slump. Quincee Lillio hit her 1st HR of the season to go back to back to back with Sanders and Nugent. A single from Hodge started the rally again for the Sooners who loaded the bases again. Bahl drew the wall to drive in Hodge and triggered another pitching change from Kentucky. A fielders choice from Lee scored Boone to make it 15-0. There was something in the air, a spectator right in front of me said K9 bomb and immediately Hansen sent one into the night for a 3 run HR and her second of the night. For the second game in a row Alex Storako refuses to be shown up by the offense. She spun an absolute gem with 5 strikeouts and no hits! She was a first inning walk away from a perfect game.
Game 3: Kentucky 7-1
You could not ask for a more beautiful day for softball. Saturday was 68 degrees.Jordy Bahl got the start in the circle for the Sooners. Notable lineup changes Tiare Jennings is moved to shortstop, Quincee Lilio gets the start at second base. Sophia Nugent is also getting the start in right field after her moon shot home run. Elite defense is what the Sooners are used to showing and it was on display early with a comebacker to Bahl and a bunt fielded by Brito. Some drama to start the bottom of the first as Jayda said she was hit by the pitch (I definitely heard it hit something) Coach Gasso wanted to challenge but the umpires did not allow a challenge. Coleman ended up lining out to left but Jennings hit a long single that would have been trouble with someone on base.
Erickson continued her hot streak with a single to left but Jennings was thrown out at third to end the inning. Pacing the circle in her signature way Bahl took care of the Wildcats easily in the 2nd inning. Alyssa Brito continues to be a spark plug for the Sooners with a leadoff single and a stolen base. After a 2 out walk to Nugent, Jordy helped her own cause with an RBI single to right scoring Brito. Even though she was caught out on her front foot Jayda kept her hands back and lifted a 3 run home run to left center to make it 4-0. That was Jayda’s 5th home run of the season and she is hitting at a blistering pace. A walk to Jennings, single by Lee and a double by Erickson later and it was 5-0.
The top of the 3rd went by quickly as Bahl worked a 1-2-3 inning. A walk to Boone lead to another RBI single for Jordy Bahl for her second of the day. The Sooners took a 6-0 lead into the 4th inning. Bahl allowed the first hit for the Wildcats in the top of the 4th but a fantastic play by Brito at 3rd ending the inning. A sacrifice fly from Brito scored Hodge who was running for the DP Lee. A wild play on a stolen base attempt by Boone who overslid second base and got into a pickle which induced Hansen to run home and a throwing error allowed her to score. Kentucky challenged the play at second and it was overturned taking the run off the board. A leadoff infield single for Rylea Smith and a wild pitch allowed her to score on a bloop single over the first baseman Erickson by Borzilleri making it 7-1 Sooners.
Oklahoma went quietly in the bottom of the 5th outside of a walk by Coleman. A leadoff infield single and a bunt single puts runners on the corners with no one out for Coffel. She promptly lined out to Lilio at second and doubled off Nesby at first. Bahl induced a foul out to Hansen to end the threat. Reaching for the 4th time today Erickson hit a rocket to the SS who couldn’t make the play. Brito singled to left and both advanced on a wild pitch with Sanders pinch hitting. Unfortunately after a long battle Sanders went down looking to end the threat. Inducing a double play to end the game Bahl finished the complete game allowing 1 run and spreading out 7 hits.
Game 4: UIC 9-0 (5)
Sooner fans got to see a flash of the future with their young shortstop as Avery Hodge gets the start and makes a fantastic play on a ball up the middle. Unfortunately Walker beat it out but you could see how special Hodge can be with the leather. Nicole May worked around the leadoff hit and pitched a scoreless first. Another day another lead off walk by Jayda Coleman. She was doubled in by Tiare Jennings. The RBI single by Lee brought home Jennings to stake the Sooners to a 2-0 lead with no one out. The hit parade continued with Brito and Torres with back to back singles loading the bases for Erickson who came into the game hitting a ridiculous .562 on the season. She capped one off the end of the bat to first to score a run. Boone popped up and no one in the infield took charge and it fell harmlessly to the dirt for an infield single. For Cydney Sanders the frustration somewhat continues as she flied out to right but it turned into a sac fly. Hodge showed she is more than just a glove as she slaps essentially a bunt that died on the line for a single. She stole second and advanced to third on the wild throw while Boone scored.
A couple of really nice plays by Alyssa Brito ends the second inning. Tiare Jennings smacked one to the wall in right to lead off the bottom of the second. The Sooners started pulling the starters after the walk to Lee with Lilio coming in for Jennings and Nugent for Lee. A HBP for Brito loaded the bases for Torres with no one out. She grounded back to the pitcher but as they tried to throw to first after the play at the plate the ball skittered away allowing Nugent to score. A low line drive caught by the pitcher doubled off Lilio and end the threat. The very rare 4 strikeouts in the top of the third for May with one of them reaching on a dropped third strike. Three more strikeouts for May in the 4th gives her 8 on the night. With back to back walks and a wild pitch putting runners on second and third then Sophia Nugent doubled them home putting the Sooners in familiar territory. The Sooners sent in Kiersten Deal to close out the game for her first action of the weekend. After a 2 out walk and a single Brito threw the runner out at third to end the game.
Coach Gasso was much happier with Saturday’s effort. Pitching was dominant only allowing 1 run the whole weekend. “The first game of the first day, was not good. They answered the call since then, and I’m really happy with how they played since then.” She also talked about how much she loved seeing Jordy hit and come through with RBI’s in the game she was pitching. Tiare Jennings on Jayda Coleman “She can do it all.” Gasso on the young players getting some playing time “I think it is really important, they are our future.” She compared resting players to like basketball with playing significant minutes and needing a break before you go back into the game. She spoke on the importance of versatility on defense and that allows them to play the matchup game with the lineups. Gasso on Nicole May “Confidence, consistency, she has a professional attitude…and approach” she also spoke on the pitching staff as a whole and keeping them fresh. She referred to baseball and how they use middle relievers and closers in how they game plan for their staff.
The Sooners return to action in Starkville, Mississippi next weekend at the Bulldog Invitational. It will be a combination of radio only, SECN+, and SECN for viewing options.