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Softball’s hitting struggles gives way to No. 9 OU

Wichita+State+junior+Mackenzie+Wright+%2810%29+watches+after+a+hit+Wednesday+afternoon+against+Oklahoma.+%28Mar.+1%2C+2017%29
Wichita State junior Mackenzie Wright (10) watches after a hit Wednesday afternoon against Oklahoma. (Mar. 1, 2017)

Wichita State junior Mackenzie Wright (10) watches after a hit Wednesday afternoon against Oklahoma. (Mar. 1, 2017)

Matt Crow

Matt Crow

Wichita State junior Mackenzie Wright (10) watches after a hit Wednesday afternoon against Oklahoma. (Mar. 1, 2017)

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Oklahoma’s Paige Parker gave the Shockers fits last season.

Parker only gave up one run OU’s 10-1 regular season win last year and when the Shockers faced the Sooners in the NCAA Tournament, Parker struck out nine Wichita State batters while pitching a complete game to advance the Sooners with a 7-2 win.

In front of 1,113 fans, the largest crowd in WSU softball history, Parker sent the majority of the crowd disappointed. Her 11 strikeouts and complete game gave the No. 9 Sooners the 7-3 win over WSU at Wilkins Stadium on Wednesday night.

“She’s the best pitcher in college softball right now,” head coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “She’s got great movement. The ball is never in the same place twice, she’s got an excellent rise ball, she throws a great backdoor curve. She just does a great job of hitting her spot. She’s a very tough pitcher.”

OU got things started in the top of the first inning by putting a runner on second base with two outs. With the Sooners hitting a line-drive to left field, senior Kelli Spring made a diving catch in the grass that put an end to the half inning, saving the potential go-ahead run from scoring.

The Sooners would strike first in the second inning by scoring on a solo home run by Nicole Pendley that put OU up 1-0 in the top of the second. A dropped pop fly by WSU junior Mackenzie Wright put a Sooner runner in scoring position in the top of the third inning.

OU’s Sydney Romero took advantage, driving in the game’s second run with a single to right field.

“It’s the same thing as being up to bat,” junior Paige Luellen said. “You can’t rush yourself, you can’t think too much about it, you have to be within that moment and make that out.”

Romero bobbled a grounder a half inning later, causing Spring to be WSU’s first runner on base in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Macklin Hitz hit a pop fly that dropped right in front of Parker, resulting in a single and moving Spring to second base.

Luellen capitalized on the Shockers’ opportunity, hitting a three-run bomb over the left center fence to give the Shockers a 3-2 lead.

“With (Parker) you have to think low instead of chasing the rise ball,” Luellen said. “When it came to the at-bat, I realized that there’s runners on, two outs and I’m up to bat. I normally would freak out a little bit, but you have to tell yourself to relax and treat it as another at-bat against another pitcher, not Paige Parker.”

After 4.1 innings of pitching, senior Katie Malone came out and freshman Bailey Klitzke came into relief. With runners on second and third off a passed ball, Klitzke fumbled a grounder that brought in the game’s tying run.

A single to centerfield by OU’s Fale Aviu brought in two runs that gave the Sooners a 5-3 lead in the top of the fifth inning. A wild pitch by Klitzke moved OU runners to second and third, and again, OU brought in the two runners home.

Romero hit OU’s first triple of the season to right centerfield that gave the Sooners two more scores in the top of the sixth.

“We have to eliminate the errors,” Spring said. “Normally we have really great defense. Once we put it all together, pitching, hitting, defense, we can compete with a team like that.”

WSU (9-3) faces North Texas on at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Texas Tech Invitational in Lubbock, Texas.

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