Oklahoma’s Jordan Thomas arrested early Thursday morning

 

JT

By Michael Kinney

Oklahoma corner back Jordan Thomas has had a checkered start to his college career. It got even messier Thursday. According to the police report,  he was arrested by the Norman Police Department and charged with public intoxication, assault and battery and interference at 2:45 a.m.

The arrest took place at 796 Asp in Norman.

Thomas was arrested late last year  for failing to appear in court following a traffic citation.

The 20-year old Thomas is a native of Klein, Texas. He was an All-Big 12 second team selection as a sophomore.

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Teams prepare to make best pitch to prize free agent

By Michel Kinney

During the Oklahoma City Thunder exit interview, coach Billy Donovan was asked a specific question on trying to keep Kevin Durant with the organization. The former college coach was asked about having to recruit Durant.

“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be recruiting him,” Donovan said at the time. “I don’t look at it as recruiting. For me, it’s been over 100 games with Kevin. Obviously, for him, this decision will be his decision. I’m there in any way he needs. But I think when you’ve been with somebody for basically an entire year – and it was a year ago at this point in time when he was coming off his foot injury that we had a chance to spend a lot of time. So Kevin will go through this process, and I’m going to respect his wishes of taking his time and evaluating it and making the right decision for himself.”

However, that is not entirely true. Donovan will most likely be in the room with Durant when he meets with the Thunder today (Thursday) to kick off his free agency tour. That means, Donovan, General Manager Sam Presti and the rest of the brass will be making the strongest pitch possible to keep him from bolting town.

The Thunder will be the first of reportedly six teams who will have an audience with Durant over the next two to three days. He is schedule to meet with the Thunder in Oklahoma City before flying to New York where he sit with the Warriors, Clippers on Friday, Spurs and Celtics on Saturday and Miami Sunday.

Each of the teams will present a glimpse of what the future would look like if Durant is wearing their jersey for next few years.

“I think number one is not to make it too overly complex,” Presti said earlier in June. “We’ve had a relationship with Kevin in Oklahoma City for eight years, nine with this particular franchise, and we talk to him all the time. I think when those conversations occur, it’s really just a continuation of a dialogue that’s been going on for eight or nine years. It’s a chance to reflect and recognize that relationship and continue the conversations that we’ve had on going.”

When the Thunder do make their pitch, money seems to be the one factor that is not an issue. If he signed long term with Thunder this season the max contract could be 5-years, for $153 million. If he signs for a year then does a long term next season, it would balloon up to $230 million with the new salary cap.

Under that same scenario, the other teams can offer 4 year deals for $114 (this season) or $177 (next season).

However, when Durant was in Austin last week, he said his decision will come down to basketball reasons. Only he and his inner circle know exactly what that means.

Because of that, there is no guarantee that Durant will be returning to the Thunder. Teams such as the Warriors, Spurs and Celtics have the ability to surround him with talent and pay him the money he is seeking.

In reality, Oklahoma City began making their pitch to Durant on draft night when Presti traded Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Iiyasova and the rights to No. 11 pick Domantas Sabonis. There has also been talk that he is making a move to sign free agent Al Horford from Atlanta.

What Oklahoma City can offer that no other franchise can match is a legacy that is all his own. There he is the foundation the franchise has been built on. He will be the first player to get his jersey retired or have a statue built of him. All future members of the Thunder would be compared to him.

No matter wherever else he goes, that is not happening.

I believe the Warriors are the Thunder’s biggest threat to stealing Durant. If that is so, at the end of the day he has to ask himself one question. Would he rather be another part of what would be an inevitable NBA championship or the lead horse in trying to bring Oklahoma City it’s first ring? When it’s all said and done, that is the pitch the Thunder have to make.

“Look, Kevin is a highly, highly intelligent person,” Presti said. “He’s a mature person. He’s a rational person, and he’s going to work through the decision in a way that will help him do what he feels is best for him. We’ll react accordingly once we have that information, and we’ll try to be as prepared as possible.”

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Durant to lead Team USA into Rio

 

By Michael Kinney

Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant is a man of his word. Even as other high profile NBA players dropped their names for consideration to play in the Rio Summer Olympics, Durant said over and over that he would be making the trip.

It became official Monday morning when USA Basketball released the names of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team and Durant was right at the top of the 12-player list.

It’s an honor to be a part of this. #UNITE #USABMNT,” Durant posted to a social media site.

This will be Durant’s second trip to the Olympic games. In 2012 he was the team’s leading scorer at 19.5 ppg as he helped the squad claim the Gold Medal.

The rest of the roster has 10 first timers to the Olympic experiences. They includes Harrison Barnes, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Kyle Lowry and Klay Thompson.

“It is an honor to represent my country in the Olympics,” Jordan said. “I am excited to begin the process of bringing home a gold medal to the United States.”

Only Durant and Carmelo Anthony have played in the Olympics before.

Olympic competition in Rio de janeiro, Brazil begins Aug. 5 and runs through the 21st.

“I think I can speak for the entire coaching staff and say we’re extremely excited about the team we will field for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,” said Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the USA Men’s National Team. “I love our depth, which is another indication of the depth of talent our national team program is blessed with. We’ve got a great mix of talent, scorers, past gold medal winners and outstanding youth.”

Durant will prepare for the Olympics as he goes through a free agency period where he is the most sought after player on the market. According to reports, once free agency begins July 1, he will have meetings with the Thunder, the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Clippers.

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer and can be reached at Eyeamtruth@gmail.com

Thunder say goodbye to Ibaka with draft night trade

Oklahoma City General Manager Sam Presti talks to the media at the end of the 2016 NBA Draft Thursday.

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA – Hours before the NBA draft tipped off Thursday night, rumors of a major shakeup with the Oklahoma City Thunder began to float around. The word was that the Thunder were in the shopping mood and looking to trade veteran forward Serge Ibaka.

But as the draft got closer, that rumor began to fade and it seemed the Thunder were going to be left with the prospect of having a pretty boring draft night. With no picks in either the first or second round, it quickly became evident Oklahoma City General Manager Sam Presti might be watching from the sideline.

However, Presti has proven he’s not a bench warmer when it comes to building teams. He pulled the trigger on a trade that shipped Ibaka to the Orlando Magic in what could be considered a mini-blockbuster for a team that was one win away from an appearance in the NBA Finals.

Yet, they had to lose Ibaka to make it happen.

(Serge) has been absolutely integral to helping us create a foundation of sustainable success for the Thunder,” Presti said. “He’s been a great citizen of Oklahoma City, and we’re confident that he’s going to continue his career trajectory with the Magic in Orlando.”

In return for the 26-year old Ibaka, the Thunder received guard Victor Oladipo, forward Ersan Llyasova and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis, who was taken with the No. 11 of the first round.

I think there is a common thread with the three players that we brought back in this particular trade,” Presti said. “These are really serious basketball players. Really high-character people, and guys that I think understand how to contribute to winning and understanding.”

With the addition of Oladipo to the lineup with Russell Westbrook, the Thunder now have one of the most athletic backcourts in the league. The 6-foot-4, 210 pound guard provides defensive pressure and a constant offensive threat. He averaged 16 points, 3.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds this past season.

I think the number one thing with Victor is his make-up. You know, this is a guy that we’ve looked at for a long time,” Presti said. “He is tough-minded, he’s competitive, he’s selfless. He is a guy that we really feel like not only brings things on the floor for us, but I think he’s going to be a real add to our environment, our culture on an everyday basis.”

Oladipo’s presence also could mean the end of Dion Waiters time in Oklahoma City. Waiters is a free agent and was seeking a long term contract, possibly at a price that was too big for what the Thunder were willing to pay.

You know, that’s an interesting question, because we really like the fact that we could potentially have several players on our team now that can attack the paint, that can guard different positions,” Presti said. “They all play with force. It’s intriguing. Like we have to sit down and sort through that, but I think it’s pretty rare that you have all of these different players that can play pick-and-roll, that can get into the lane, that have good vision. So that remains to be seen. But, obviously, Victor gives us coverages there. At the same time Dion has shown to be a really good fit the same way. So I’m interested to see that, to be honest with you.”
Sabonis is a 20-year old native of Portland and the son of former Trailblazer Arvydas Sabonis.

The younger Sabonis, 20, played at Gonzaga where he averaged almost 18 points, 12 rebounds and shot 61 percent from the field.

When Sabonis was interviewed after being drafted, it was unclear if he knew he had been traded to Oklahoma City since he was still swearing a Magic hat.

Sabonis was asked what he feels about playing next to Adams.

“It’s awesome,” Sabonis said. “He’s a great player, very talented. They are a very good team. I’m just excited to go there. Can’t wait to go there.”

In the closing minutes of the draft night, Presti pulled off another move that gave the Thunder the rights to 6-foot-7 forward Daniel Hamilton. In two seasons at UConn he averaged just over 11 points and eight rebounds.

But the entire night was about Oklahoma City moving one from one of its building blocks in Ibaka.

In his final season in Oklahoma City, he averaged 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. He had been with the franchise since he was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics in 2008 with the 24th overall pick.

With the emergence of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter throughout the season, Ibaka saw the team’s dependence on him decrease. That was especially evident in the postseason.

Ibaka was also heading into the final year of his 4-year contract where he would be making $12.35 million.

In his time with Oklahoma City, Ibaka made the ll-Defensive First Team three times and led the NBA in blocks twice. After beginning his career in Oklahoma City as a defensive demon, he began the transformation of becoming a stretch four. During his exit interview he announced he was making the full conversion to a forward who just shoots 3-pointers and that may have signaled the end to his tenure with the Thunder.

“Time flies. 7 years in Oklahoma City, a place where I grew up, became the player I am today, competed with a great team and made great friends,” Ibaka posted on social  media. “A place I can call home. Thank you state of Oklahoma and your wonderful people. Thank you @okcthunder, staff, employees, teammates and fans. You will be in my heart forever.”

Ibaka, Westbrook and Kevin Durant had matured from teenagers into grown men together in Oklahoma City. Along with Nick Collison, they were all that was left from the team that went to the 2012 NBA Finals.

But once again Presti showed he’s not afraid to make moves to keep his roster flush with young talent. As the Durant free agent sweepstakes continues to play itself out, that may be the most important thing accomplished on draft night.

The thing we’re always focused on is how we make the organization better,” Presti said. “How we look to aggressively pursue progress, pursue improvement, and we thought this was an opportunity to do that. As I said before, the combination of players that we’re getting back, we feel really fit our team. And, and we always have to do what is best for our team.”

Draft Notes: For Oklahoma fans, they didn’t have to wait long to see Buddy Hield taken. The National Player of the Year was taken sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Hield sported a white and maroon jacket and flashed little buddy buckets signs as he climbed the stage to shake the hand of the commissioner.

“I am just happy, my family is happy considering where we came from,” Hield said during the telecast. “Just glad to be here. We couldn’t have done it without God. I am just thankful God has blessed me in this moment.”

The last Oklahoma player to be taken in the first round was Blake Griffin with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007.

The Sooners’ Isaiah Cousins was drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the 59th pick in the second round. This is the first time in the Sacramento-era the Kings have selected a player from the University of Oklahoma.

National title still special for Oklahoma coach

Former Lawton Ike Head Coaches Tim Reynolds, Bill Whiteley and Clarence MacKillip

By Michael Kinney

On June 6th former coach Tim Reynolds was at a place he hoped he’d never have to be. He attended the memorial of Phillip Kinney, one of his former players from his 1990 state and National Championship winning team at Lawton Eisenhower. While it was a somber moment for the almost 200 people in attendance, what Reynolds saw gave his heavy heart a little lift.

Teammates such as Matt Parker, Fred Thomas, Chris Bridges, Chris Pollard, Tyrone Rochon, Aaron Malloy, Maurice Mayfield and Jamar Workman came out to pay their respects to Kinney. It let Reynolds know that the family ties that were built during that miraculous season are still holding strong 26 years later.

“I was thoroughly pleased to see everybody there at Phillip’s funeral,” Reynolds said. “I hated the situation. But I was really pleased to see so many of his teammates showed up, some from a long ways off. It was so good to see a bunch of those guys and to see a bunch of people who had done well. It just really makes my heart feel good. I really can’t explain it. Coaching was passion for me. I probably supported my kids to a fault. I say that sincerely. It doesn’t matter how bad I got up in their (butts), I didn’t want anybody else doing it. It’s very rewarding seeing them.”

With 27 years and four head coaching stints under his belt, Reynolds will be inducted in the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame July 23 in Tulsa. His stops include Paul’s Valley, Chickasha and one year Noble. He also spent time as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State.

“My career was very rewarding in so many ways,” Reynolds said. “When I coached, I don’t even consider it an occupation. I consider it a passion. It totally consumed me. I sincerely enjoyed my relationships with the kids. I think anybody whoever played for me knew that you were going to do things right, and give good effort or you weren’t going to play. I didn’t give a dang how big or small, black, white, purple, yellow. I didn’t really give a damn how much money your momma had. If you played for me I think you pretty well understood you are going to have to perform in order to get on the field. I was always proud of that.”

But it was Reynolds’ four years at Lawton Eisenhower that will be attached to his name in the annals of Oklahoma high school sports history. In that span he racked up a 40-11 record, four playoffs appearances, two trips to the Class 5A state title game, one state title and the mythical 1990 USA Today National Championship.

As Reynolds prepares for his hall of fame induction, the memories of that title run have not dimmed.

“What I remember the most of the championship year is that everybody went ‘OK, we got it,’” Reynolds said. “We understand. That’s what I remember the most that you guys understand what we had a chance to do. I know we came out as No. 2 at the first of the year, then the No. 1 team (Berwick, Pa.) in the nation lost. From that point on, somebody was going to have to be really, really good to beat us.”

Unlike today where coaches have to fight and plead at some programs to get players to even show up for summer workouts, Reynolds said he didn’t have that problem with at Eisenhower.

“It wasn’t just the players. The coaches should be commended to,” Reynolds said. “I’m not talking me. I’m talking about all the coaches. We demanded there was summer weights. We demanded this and we demanded that. But the coaches were more than happy. The coaches kind of ran a bus route going and rounding people up in the summer every day. But we got them there and it paid off.”

During that season, the Eagles finished the year 14-0 and outscored opponents 482-110. Running the veer offense and a 50-front defense, the coaching staff allowed the players talents to flourish.

That included a sophomore that year named Raymond Austin, who went on to play football at Tennessee before playing three years in the NFL with the New York Jets and Chicago Bears.

“He pushed us and pushed us hard,” Austin said of Reynolds. “A lot of my work ethic comes from that year. Coach made me really feel I could play at the next level. He wanted you to shine. He was happy about your success.”

However, it was Reynolds first season at Eisenhower that set the tone for the history they would accomplish two years later. In 1988 Reynolds and his staff led Eisenhower to the state title game against the Midwest City Bombers and quarterback Cale Gundy, who went on to play and coach at Oklahoma.

The Eagles had the lead late in the fourth quarter until Gundy led the Bombers 80 yards on a game-winning drive to secure a 31-27 victory.

“The Midwest City game, that was a heart breaker,” Reynolds said. “I thought we had that one. We were 1:08 seconds short. They (MWC) had a wonderful football team. So did we. We were kind of the “where did they come from” team that year. But I thought that probably built the foundation for us to go on and be the only high school team in Oklahoma history to be a national champion. I think we got a taste of it then. I think the work ethic was developed at that time.”

While the upperclassmen in that game included the likes of Butch Husky, Joe Brown, Kevin Crutchmer, Maurice Davenport, Sylvester Keith and Bryan Lewis, it was that sophomore crew that Reynolds knew he could build something unique with.

“It was very special,” Reynolds said. “What I remember the most from you guys is that we worked hard. I still remember when seeing Phillip and Dwight (McFadden), Maurice (Mayfield), Freddy (Thomas), Matt (Parker) and those guys as sophomores. And it just intrigued me. Cause we had such unbelievable talent.”

The biggest game of the 1990 season was the season ender with Putnam City North. Both teams came into the contest undefeated at 9-0 and ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state.

The Panthers, who had to travel to Cameron Stadium in Lawton for the prime time matchup, took a 14-0 lead before the Eagles stormed back to win 21-14.

They went through Putnam City West, Del City and Enid before making it to the state championship game. Waiting on them were the Panthers again.

However, with everything they worked for within their grasp, Eisenhower didn’t allow Putnam City North to make a game of it. EHS won 35-7 to claim the schools only state title and the state’s second national championship. The first since Oklahoma City Capitol in 1933.

“Everyone that suits up in a football uniform dreams of a season like we had in 1990,” said Parker, who is a strength coach at TCU. “We as players knew we had a special group, from winning the football championship in ninth grade to several of us starting as sophomores and competing at a high level, we knew that by the time we became seniors we’d be a force in the state of Oklahoma… Who would have thought that others would take notice and rank our team as the nations best.”

When Reynolds goes into the Hall of Fame, he said it won’t be him just him being memorialized. It will be all the coaches he worked with and all the players he ever led in his 27 years. That includes the national championship team, which still hold special place in his heart to this day.

“I was just a small part of a very big deal. We had great talent. But there are lots of people that have great talent,” Reynolds said. “I think we the coaches got it out of the kids. I thought the kids took great pride. Every body took ownership of the program, which was wonderful. Stop and think about it, really. We didn’t have any problem getting people there for summer weights. We didn’t have a problem with people skipping practice. Everybody knew what it was going to take. I thought it was a pretty good brotherhood. I really did.”

Story first appeared in Vype.com

Westbrook bows out of Olympics

 

By Michael Kinney

The two best point guards in the NBA this year were Golden State’s Steph Curry and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. Neither will be in Rio this Summer for the 2016 Olympic Games.

After Curry announced last week that he would not be on the Summer Olympic team, Westbrook followed suit Friday.

“After speaking with my family, I have decided to not participate in this year’s Olympics,” Westbrook said in a statement. “This was not an easy decision, as representing my country at the World Championships in 2010 and the Olympics in 2012 were career highlights for me. I look forward to future opportunities as a member of USA Basketball.”

Westbrook was part of the 2012 Gold Medal winning team and averaged 8.5 points, 1.6 assists and 1.6 rebounds.

Westbrook didn’t give a reason why he would not be part of the team. But with him entering the final year of his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the fear of injury could be at the heart of the matter.

The All-Star point guard is coming off a season in which he averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds. He also averaged more than 34 minutes a game for the sixth time in eight seasons. So he may just need a rest.

The departure of Westbrook and Curry leaves the door wide open for some the leagues younger point guards who are chomping at the bit to be on the team. That includes the likes of Mike Conley, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and John Wall.

Earlier this month, Thunder teammate Kevin Durant announced he is still planning on being on the Olympic team in Rio.

The USA National Team will open its 2016 training camp July 18 in Las Vegas and will train daily through July 21 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. The team roster for the USA’s Las Vegas training camp will feature 12 national team players to be announced after completion of the NBA Finals, according to usab.com.

Sooners bring another title back home

The Oklahoma softball celebrates the program’s third national championship after beating Auburn 2-1 Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Right before the postseason began, Oklahoma had one of its most important competitions. Away from the spot light of the cameras and fans, the competitive Sooners had a bake off.

Sophomore pitcher Paige Parker was the favorite going in, but her cupcakes were beat out by the Monkey Bread of Erin Miller. Parker didn’t take the loss well.

Fast forward to late Wednesday night and Oklahoma had just capped an amazing season with a 2-1 victory over Auburn to win the Women’s College World Series at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. As Parker was walking to the champions press conference, she overheard someone asking about the baking contest. Even as she was enjoying the crowing moment of the Sooner’s incredible season, Parker was still in disbelief about the outcome of the baking contest.

“I don’t know how I didn’t win,” Parker said.

It’s that same competitive nature of not wanting to lose in anything that may have been the key ingredient that carried Parker through the championship series when she wasn’t at full strength. But that was enough for the Sooners (57-8) to climb on the Missouri native’s back on their way to claiming the 2016 National Championship.

“So I just kind of took myself to another level and just went into another gear, and I was willing to do whatever I had to to help this team win,” Parker said.

Parker (38-3) pitched seven innings, allowed five hits and one run. She also struck out five batters while only walking one. Coach Patty Gasso’s decision to rest her Tuesday in a Game 2 loss seemed to pay off.

“When I talked to her on Tuesday morning after an ice bath, I think it was at a third of a tank, which is not enough to beat that team,” Gasso said. “And if we would have tried and put her out there, even in the third when we had a lead, I don’t know that – my heart is with this kid first, and to put her in a non-winning potential situation, I couldn’t do that because she helped us get here. So it was, you know, we’re going to do the best we can to win that game on Tuesday, give her rest.”

With the game in the balance, once again the Sooners looked to Parker to close out the night. In the top of the seventh inning she faced the bottom of the Tigers lineup and struck out Madi Gipson before getting Whitney Jordan to fly out.

Courtney Shea came in to pinch hit for Victoria Draper. After a battle in which Shea fouled off pitch after pitch, she grounded out to end the game.

The Sooners then proceeded to dog pile Parker in the pitcher’s circle and the celebration began. Their fans soon joined in.

Oklahoma not only ends its season with the program’s third nation title, but also an amazing run of dropping only one game in their last 33 outings. That included a 31 game win streak.

“I felt our team definitely took the hard road through this,” Gasso said. “We had to open up with Alabama, and that was a very tough game, and then on to — who did we play next? Michigan, LSU. We played some of the best in the country, so I definitely feel like this team earned every second of our success because they played from the first pitch to the last.”

Oklahoma’s first run of the game came on back to back errors from Auburn second baseman Emily Carosone. After misplaying a grounder, she threw the ball away. It allowed OU to score.

Fale Aviu then hit a slow roller to shortstop Whitney Jordan and beat the throw to first as Shay Knighten scored from third. OU had a quick 2-0 advantage.

The Tigers waited until the third inning to try and strike back. They loaded the bases with no outs against Parker. They not only had a chance to take the lead, but put some pressure on Oklahoma.

However, Parker reached back and struck out Carosone before getting Carlee Wallace to hit into an inning ending double play.

In the fourth inning, Jade Rhodes finally struck for the Tigers when she blasted a solo homer to left field. It was her third round-tripper of the tournament and cut OU’s lead down to 2-1.

That would be the only run the Sooners would allow one night after giving up 11 to the same squad.

 

The softball team joins Oklahoma’s men’s and women’s gymnastics teams in winning national championships this year. Throw in the OU football team and men’s basketball team making it to the Final Four of their respective sports, it’s easy to see why senior Erin Miller was so emotional after her final game in an Oklahoma uniform.

“We have something that a lot of programs don’t, and that’s Sooner tradition,” Miller said. “This university is something incredible, and I think anyone that’s a part of it could say that. As a senior, I can’t thank our fans enough. Playing here has been the greatest four years of my life.”

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer and can be reached at Eyeamtruth@gmail.com

Stunning developments

Oklahoma’s Jayden Chestnut and Erin Miller sit stunned during post game press conference after watching Auburn comeback to beat them Tuesday in the Womens’s College World Series. (Photo by Michael Kinney)

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Jayden Chestnut finally got her first taste of the Women’s College World Series. Through four games of the tournament the Oklahoma freshman had only watched as Paige Parker pitched every inning.

But with Parker getting the night off Tuesday, Chestnut finally got the call she had been waiting on. Unfortunately for her, she was on the wrong end of one of the most remarkable comebacks and finishes in World Series history as the Sooners lost 11-7 to Auburn at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

“Quite a game,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “Another tough game for two teams that played really hard. Jayden Chestnut specifically fought her tail off tonight. I thought our offense came out and attacked early, then we just went a little stagnant. That hurt us. We make no excuses for the loss. We just needed to execute a little bit better.”

The game was tied at 7-7 heading into extra innings. When the Sooners didn’t score in the top of the eighth, it set up the Tigers to find a way to win it in the bottom of the inning.

After Chestnut got the first out, she allowed a bunt, a single and a walk to load the bases. That brought Auburn’s Emily Carosone to the plate. Chestnut delivered the first pitch and Carosone crushed a grand slam over the right field fence to end the game.

“Really right before I got in the box I was thinking, hit it hard, because if I hit it hard and it went somewhere, Victoria (Draper) was going to score no matter what,” Carosone said. “But I don’t know, that pitch was just there. It was – softball is a game of inches, and my bat was there. It’s amazing. God is good. God is good.”

The Tigers scored 11 straight runs to close out the game and tie the championship series at 1-1. It sets up a decisive Game 3 at 6 p.m. tonight with the winner being crowned the national champion.

Parker will be back on the mound for the Sooners. Not letting her pitch Tuesday was not a difficult decision for Gasso, who wanted her ace to be at 100 percent.

“Paige having this night off I think will help her tremendously for (Wednesday), and like I said, whether we have gas in our tank or not, we’re going to do everything we can tomorrow as a team,” Gasso said.

Malayka Martin picked up the win while Chestnut (9-1) suffered her first defeat of the season. She pitched 5.2 innings, allowed 11 hits, six runs and struck out three.

“I mean, I was always ready to go in, and I had a lot of excitement about it,” Chestnut said, “And my plan was to just go in and be fearless and keep us in the ballgame, and I think I executed that pretty well.”

Auburn’s Kaylee Carkson found herself in a jam at the very start. The Sooners had runners on second and third with Fale Avlu at the plate. Avlu hit a dribbler to second base and beat out the throw to knock in the first run of the game.

Kady Self added to the mounting problems in the second inning when she clobbered a solo homer into center field. Two straight defensive miscues by shortstop Whitney Jordan led to another run scoring.

The game was on the verge of getting out of hand when Caleigh Clifton and Shay Knighten laid down perfect bunts to plate two more runs.

After Sydney Romero singled in a run and Auburn had yet to register an out, Carlson was pulled for Rachel Walters. Nicole Pendley added another RBI before Auburn finally got out of the 2nd inning trailing 7-0.

Auburn quickly got over the shock of the onslaught and put three runs on the board in the bottom of the inning. Jordan did the honors with a 3-run homer off Stevens. An error by Self in left field allowed another run to score and Stevens was taken out of the game.

That brought Chestnut into the game. The Tigers loaded the bases and had an opportunity take the lead, but Chestnut struck out Jade Rhodes to end the inning leading 7-5.

The 11 total runs scored by both teams was the most in a single inning in championship series history.

Chestnut gave up a 2-run homer in the fourth inning that tied the game at 7-7. She kept the Tigers bats silent until the eighth.

“Yeah, it obviously didn’t turn out my way and it stings a little bit,” Chestnut said, “but I think it’s just motivation to come out tomorrow and just fight even harder.”

Now everything is riding on one game to win it all. The Sooners are confident they can get it done.

It’s about resiliency,” Erin Miller said. “It’s about how you answer. I think we’ve done a great job of that all season. Someone throws a punch, you throw it back. That’s the game of softball, I think. You’re going to see a dogfight tomorrow. It’s for a national championship; why wouldn’t you?”

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer and can be reached at Eyeamtuth@gmail.com

Sooners title hopes still alive

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – For the second night in a row, Oklahoma faced a team it had played during the regular season. However, this matchup with Michigan in the Women’s College World Series carried a lot more weight than the early season matchup won by the Wolverines.

With a trip to the semifinals on the line, the Sooners held on to beat to beat the Wolverines 7-5 Saturday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Oklahoma will play at 8:30 p.m. tonight with a spot in the championship game up for grabs. They will face the winner of the Georgia and LSU tilt. The Sooners have to win just once to advance, while whoever they play will have to beat them twice due to the double elimination rules.

“Whatever comes our way, we talk about it,” OU coach Patti Gasso said. “We’re not afraid of anybody. We just know it’s our path and our journey. So whoever comes forward, we’re ready. That’s all we’ve been doing.”

However, it took everything the Sooners had to put themselves in this position.

Oklahoma took a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. Aiden Faulk and Lindsey Montemarano each came up with RBI singles to cut deficit to 7-5.

That brought Abby Ramirez to the plate with the bases loaded for Michigan. She worked the count full before grounded out to ended the game.

“I think the great thing about this team is there is a different hero every inning, every game, every pitch,” Oklahoma’s Erin Miller said. “I think we’re all just trying to contribute any way we can.”

Paige Parker (35-3) picked up the win after pitching a complete game. She allowed five runs and 12 hits while striking out eight.

“The top of their lineup is very, very tough,”Parker said. “Just trying to minimize anything they do. And just try to do my best to get them out. Let my defense work behind me.”

Shay Knighten led OU with two its and two RBIs.

It didn’t take long for Sooners to strike early in the night.

In her first at bat since hitting a walk off homer Friday night, Knighten hit a dribbler up the middle to knock in two runs. She later scored after stealing third and reaching home on an error to take a 3-0 lead.

Michigan tried to hit back in the bottom of the second when they had runners on second and third and one out. But Parker got Montemarano to pop out and Amanda Vargas to ground out to end the inning.

Sydney Romero got the Oklahoma fans on their feet in the top of the third when she crushed a solo homer to put OU up 4-0.

“I had a game-plan on that at bat,” Romero said. “I stuck with it and it got me a homerun.”

Oklahoma put constant pressure on Michigan’s Megan Betsa by being aggressive on the base paths. That led to six stolen bases for OU.

Michigan got on the board when Faulk smashed a 2-run homer in the bottom of the fourth.

The Wolverines loaded the bases for Sierra Romero, who hit a roller up the third base line to her sister. Sydney tried to throw her out, but it was too late. Sierra was safe and a run scored to close the gap to 4-3.

“i really wanted to throw her out,” Sydney laughed. “I was rooting for her. But I wasn’t at the same time. That was the toughest part. At the end of the day I had to play it just like a normal game.”

Nicole Pendley added to the Sooner’s homerun total when she hit a towering shot over the right field fence in the sixth. Oklahoma extended its lead to 5-3.

After pitching eight innings the night before, Parker was being hit all over the field by the Michigan batters. However, base running mistakes by the Wolverines got Parker out of the sixth inning undamaged. Oklahoma plated two more runs in the seventh to give them some breathing room. It was too much for Michigan to overcome.

“I just think we took a little while to get going,” Sierra Romero said. “And they got the first punch in and we should have just tried to come out a little bit better.”

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer and can be reached at Eeyamtruth@gmail.com

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