Saturday started with Wichita State making top-seeded Oklahoma uncomfortable and ended with an elimination of Texas A&M early Sunday morning. Nothing that happened on a long day-plus of softball changed coach Kristi Bredbenner ‘s evaluation of her Shockers. Wichita State came to the Norman Regional promising to cause some […]
Saturday started with Wichita State making top-seeded Oklahoma uncomfortable and ended with an elimination of Texas A&M early Sunday morning.
Nothing that happened on a long day-plus of softball changed coach Kristi Bredbenner's evaluation of her Shockers. Wichita State came to the Norman Regional promising to cause some havoc and they get another chance in the regional title game against the Sooners on Sunday.
"We are a World Series caliber team," she said. "We've got a lot of fight. We've got a chance. We've got to believe in it."
Opponents better believe in the Shocker hitters – up and down the lineup – after Saturday. They homered three times and added a double in a 7-5 loss to the Sooners, forcing them to throw three pitchers. They rapped out 13 hits and walked seven times to defeat Texas A&M 9-6 at Marita Hynes Field in Norman, Okla.
The Shockers (41-12-1) and the Sooners (47-2) meet again at 3 p.m. Sunday in the regional title game. Wichita State must defeat OU twice to advance to the Super Regional.
"We just came out and fought all day long," said third baseman Ryleigh Buck, who homered twice against Oklahoma. "We really got after it from the beginning. We showed everyone what we can do."
Wichita State is in the regional title round for the second time – in 2018 it lost to host Arkansas.
The Shockers led OU 2-1 and then rallied with three runs in the sixth inning. They put the tying runs on base with two outs. There is no better way to establish credibility than to push the Sooners and the Shockers did that.
"Today's game – I've never been more proud of this team," Bredbenner said. "OU played hard. We made them not play their best game."
Buck homered in the fourth to give the Shockers a 2-1 lead. Her three-run homer in the sixth inning cut the deficit to two runs.
"The whole team was seeing the ball really well," she said. "I was just watching everyone else square it up, and I know if they're hitting it I can, too."
To advance to Sunday, the Shockers needed to handle the Aggies (32-23) for a second time in the regional.
The pop started with Sydney McKinney's double and Addison Barnard's home run, usual suspects in the Wichita State offense. It ended with No. 9 hitter Kaylee Huecker hitting her sixth home run of the season.
Wichita State built a 4-0 lead before the Aggies scored three runs in the fourth inning Shockers answered to push the lead to 6-3. They added two more runs in the sixth and Huecker's solo home run in the seventh to stay just ahead of Texas A&M.
Bailey Lange gave up one run in the final two innings to hold off the Aggies.
She ended the sixth by snagging a pop up near home plate to leave the bases loaded. In the seventh, she struck out Haley Lee, who had homered earlier, with two runners on, tempting her to swing at 1-2 pitch moving low and away.
"That kid's got tremendous power," Bredbenner said. "I thought Lange was a little disappointed on some pitch calls earlier and then she hit (Makinzy) Herzog. You could see by her reaction that she wasn't happy with herself. She's just going to have to let that go and move on. The reason I called timeout was to get her to do that – take a deep breath."
The Sooners have won 10 straight regionals, nine of those at home. Nobody expects the Shockers to end that streak and that is the mood they are thriving on.
"We've got nothing to lose," Bredbenner said. "We've got to continue working that angle."
Paul Suellentrop covers Wichita State Athletics and the American Athletic Conference for university Strategic Communications. Story suggestion? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.