Sooners tee off on Lady Vols freshmen; Weekly says ‘that decision is on me'

Oklahoma Athletics photo / Oklahoma's Tiare Jennings is all smiles rounding third base after her three-run home run in the second inning opened the floodgates to a 9-0 rout of Tennessee on Saturday at the Women's College World Series.

Tennessee senior softball pitchers Ashley Rogers and Payton Gottshall are a combined 35-2 this season.

Neither was in the circle Saturday afternoon at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

Lady Vols coach Karen Weekly opted for a pair of freshmen to challenge seemingly invincible Oklahoma, and the results were disastrous as the No. 1 Sooners humiliated No. 4 Tennessee 9-0 in a run-rule game shortened to five innings. Oklahoma extended its NCAA-record winning streak to 50 games and improved to 58-1 overall, while the Lady Vols dropped to 50-9 with their first loss since the regular season.

Karlyn Pickens got the start for Tennessee and allowed a three-run home run in the second inning. She was replaced by fellow freshman Charli Orsini, who gave up a two-run homer in the third.

“In scouting them and watching a lot of their other games where people had been able to hold their numbers in check as far as runs scored, I felt like Karlyn presented a pretty good option to start with,” Weekly said during a news conference. “I didn’t plan on anyone going a full game or letting them see anybody too many times, because I thought that was something else important in terms of trying to keep them off balance.

“The people we put in there, I thought, had the pitches in their arsenal that would be most successful, but we didn’t execute in a lot of those instances. Ultimately, that decision is on me.”

Weekly added that Rogers was going to come in had the game stayed tight.

The 6-foot-1 Pickens made her first start since the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals against Alabama, when she allowed three walks, two hits and four runs before being replaced by Gottshall. She threw 28 pitches in the first inning Saturday, yielding an infield hit and two walks, but she got out of the bases-loaded jam unscathed.

She allowed a walk and a two-out infield hit in the second inning but wasn’t as fortunate, surrendering a three-run homer to straightaway center field by Tiare Jennings on what would be her 48th and final pitch.

Orsini quickly got out of the second inning but gave up a two-run blast to Kinzie Hansen in the third and was replaced by sophomore Nicola Simpson. The Sooners wound up scoring six runs in the third, tallying their eighth and ninth runs via wild pitches.

“Once we got down three, we were fine,” Weekly said. “Once we got down five, there was a lack of energy.”

Rogers pitched four innings and Gottshall three during Thursday’s 10-5 downing of Alabama, but Oklahoma starter Jordy Bahl worked seven innings Thursday in the 2-0 win over Stanford and came back for more. Bahl surrendered a leadoff double by Kiki Milloy down the left-field line but did not allow another runner until the fourth inning.

Bahl, the national freshman of the year last season, improved to 42-2 in her Sooners career.

Oklahoma will continue its quest for a fifth national title in the last seven NCAA tournaments on Monday afternoon, with a win then clinching a berth in the best-of-three championship series. The Lady Vols will now play Sunday night at 7 on ESPN2 against Oklahoma State, with the winner playing again Monday and the loser being eliminated.

“You’ve got to have short-term memory,” Milloy said. We’ve got another game really quickly tomorrow and a very good opponent. We’ve got to flush this game, and if we face them again during this tournament, we’ll talk about it when the time comes.”

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