'There is zero mercy': Sooners set NCAA records, rout Wichita State to reach super regional
NORMAN — Sitting a few rows behind home plate Sunday, softball’s home run queen watched her former team move closer to becoming the biggest home run hitting team of them all.
By the time Rylie Boone’s grand slam went sailing over the right-center field wall in the seventh, the Norman Regional final had long been decided. The only question was how many runs the Sooners would post and how many records they would set or tie.
OU’s 24-7 win over Wichita State figures to have an impression on the record book for quite awhile.
OU (48-2) will host 16th-seeded Washington, which twice beat Michigan on Sunday night to advance, 2-0 and 10-5.
The Sooners’ broke the NCAA postseason record for runs in a game, runs in a regional (50), and combined runs in a postseason game (31).
OU tied an NCAA postseason record with six home runs and the combined 31 hits also tied a postseason record.
And Lauren Chamberlain was loving it.
“It’s fun. As a home run hitter myself, I like to see the long ball,” Chamberlain said after the game. “It shows how deep the lineup is, how many good players who are not in the lineup who they can pull off the bench and still hit bombs.”
Chamberlain holds the NCAA career home run record with 95 and has two of the Sooners’ three 30-home run seasons.
OU kept its push for the all-time home run record, moving just 16 away from tying Hawaii’s NCAA-record of 158, set in 2010.
“We want to keep making statements and just show that it’s not a fluke,” said Grace Lyons, who homered twice. “It’s not easier competition than in the past, it’s something we’re just going to keep pushing with.”
The Sooners have been on the positive side of plenty of blowouts this season but after the first inning, OU was in a position they haven’t been all season — down four runs.
“The message was this is the first inning really,” coach Patty Gasso said. “This is about a race. It’s a race where they took the lead but the finish line is still way, way out there.
“That was really the message — slow and steady will win this race. You can’t win the game with one big swing so it’s just piecing things together.”
The Sooners immediately answered by doing just what Gasso asked of them — stringing together quality at-bats.
Just like a day earlier, when the Sooners trailed 2-1 before unloading with a six-run fifth in a 7-5 win over the Shockers, OU’s offense came alive quickly.
After Wichita State’s Bailey Lange opened the door for the Sooners by hitting two of the first four batters of the inning, OU kicked it open.
“There’s no stopping our lineup,” Lyons said. “To us, it’s like a punch in the face and what are we going to do about it? Our back’s not against the wall, we’re going to keep coming and keep punching.”
The Sooners scored their eight second-inning runs without the benefit of a home run and only two of their six hits in the inning went for extra bases.
Nicole Mendes got OU’s scoring starting with a one-out, bases-loaded single to cut the deficit in half.
Tiare Jennings followed with a double off the wall in left-center to tie the game.
Two batters later, Kinzie Hansen broke the tie with an RBI single up the middle, driving Lange from the game.
Before Sunday, the Sooners had trailed by multiple runs just twice all season and never by more than three runs.
The Sooners added three in each of the third and fourth innings to close in on run-rule territory before Neleigh Herring, a Chandler product, blasted a two-run homer in the fourth and the Sooners didn’t score in either the fifth or the sixth, extending the game.
OU then exploded once more in the seventh, scoring 10 — all before an out was recorded.
Taylon Snow, Lyons, Lynnsie Elam and Boone all homered in the inning, with Boone’s grand slam setting the postseason scoring record OU narrowly missed in Friday’s 19-0 win over Morgan State.
It was the seventh time the Sooners had scored 10 in an inning this season and the fifth time OU had hit four or more home runs in an inning.
"For us, when it's the postseason, there is zero mercy," Lyons said.
Norman Super Regional
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 16 Washington
Game 1: 2 p.m. Friday (ESPN2)
Game 2: 2 p.m. Saturday (ABC)
Game 3: 3 p.m. Sunday (ESPN, if necessary)