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Sports

May 3, 2014

Oklahoma softball on a roll

NORMAN — There can be no doubt that 12th-ranked Oklahoma is rolling. Entering Saturday’s contest with Texas Tech, the Sooners had won 22 of their last 24 games and only been threatened a handful of times in that run.

And with the Big 12 championship in reach, they kept rolling, defeating the Red Raiders 5-1 with a formula that has become commonplace in recent weeks: a dominating pitching performance by Kelsey Stevens and big hits from a high-powered offense.

Matching a season-high, Stevens struck out 11 batters, while Lauren Chamberlain and Brittany Williams each hit their second home run of the series as the Sooners jumped out early and never looked backed.

“I see it as continuing to go on one steady climb,” coach Patty Gasso said after the Sooners (42-10, 13-2) pounded out three home runs against Texas Tech (35-18, 8-9). “They understand that every game the rest of the way gets bigger and bigger.”

Seemingly the only thing that can slow the Sooners down at this point is injury, and there was some bad news on that front Saturday. Sophomore Kady Self pulled up running to first base in Friday’s win, left the game and didn’t suit up on Saturday. Gasso revealed that, while the MRI results aren’t yet back, coaches expect that Self tore her ACL. She was optimistic that if the damage is minimal then Self could play with a brace the rest of the season, but it’s possible that Self is done for the year.

The loss of Self comes just a week after the Sooners finally put the starting lineup back together with Chamberlain’s return. And, after a slow week by her standards, Chamberlain has found her stride. The program’s career home runs leader had her second in as many days on Saturday, sending a third-inning shot over left field to go along with two walks.

And she wasn’t the only one to provide the power for OU. Georgia Casey put OU on the board in the second with a solo shot and Williams provided the exclamation point with a two-run blast to center field to give the Sooners a four-run lead in the third.

“After my first at-bat I missed one that I thought was my pitch to hit,” said Williams, who finished with three RBIs on the day. “I told myself I was going to take my hacks earlier in the count and be aggressive.”

It worked, and Williams’ home run was more than enough for Stevens, who allowed just three hits while matching her strikeout total from Friday. In two games against the Red Raiders, the sophomore has given up five hits while walking three and striking out 22 batters.

“She’s playing with extreme confidence,” Gasso said. “She’s really coming into her own and she’s kind of been leading the way. She’s telling us she wants the ball even after throwing more than 100 pitches yesterday and that’s something this team appreciates. They want to score runs for her.”

With the win, OU moves one step closer to securing its third-straight Big 12 title. The Sooners have a two-game lead over Baylor with three conference games to play, and because OU owns the tiebreaker it can secure the championship with a win over Texas Tech at noon today.

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