Freshman D.J. Mathis came within one out of a no-hiiter and fellow freshman Samantha Ricketts drove in the game's only run, as Oklahoma defeated Kent State, 1-0, in the opening game of the Ann Arbor Regional in NCAA Softball play.
Mathis struck out six and didn't allow a hit until Ashley Ball hit a liner just over the outstretched glove of OU shortstop Savannah Long with two out in the seventh inning. She retired the next batter to complete a 1-hit shutout and her 15th win over the season.
Ricketts singled up the middle with two outs in the first inning off Kent State ace Brittney Robinson to score Norelle Dickson with the only run of the game.
Oklahoma will now advance to face Michigan in a Saturday game that will be televised by ESPN2. The host team shut out Youngstown State 4-0 on Friday.
Mathis said she didn't think about the no-hitter until the final inning.
"Throughout the entire game, it was a one-run contest, so I was just trying to work on getting the win and keeping the shutout. The no-hit thing didn't really matter to me as much as long as we got the win," said Mathis.
When Bell hit the line drive, Mathis didn't immediately think the no-hitter was over.
"I thought Savannah was going to catch it for a minute but it didn't matter really in the end," Mathis admitted.
Mathis did hit three batters with pitches, including two back-to-back in the fourth inning to give Kent State their only scoring threat of the game. She came up with consecutive strikeouts to end that threat and went on to retire ten in a row before Bell's two out hit in the seventh.
Kent State pitcher Robinson came into the game with a mind-boggling 414 strikeouts on the season, but only two Sooners went down on strikes in the game. OU hit the ball hard early en route to scoring the game's lone run.
Centerfielder Kristin Vesely was 0-2 with a walk, so she remains two hits shy of tying the Sooners career record. OU did set a single-season record when they turned their 23rd double play of the year on a line drive hit at third baseman Traci Dickenson.
OU won without head coach Patty Gasso, who was back in Norman to attend her son's high school graduation. Gasso stayed informed of the game's progress through the Internet and in calls with OU Senior Womens Administrator Stephanie Rempe, who was at the game. Assistant coach Melyssa Lombardi filled in for Gasso and said she knew the coach was on pins and needles.
"I think for her it was pretty difficult to be in Norman," Lombardi said. "I thought our game went by pretty quick ,but it was probably the longest game ever for her. One thing I know about Coach Gasso is that she is very confident in our team and even though she didn't want to leave them, she wouldn't have left if she didn't feel this team couldn't handle it and get it done."
The Sooners now get a shot at defending national champion Michigan and their ace pitcher Jenny Ritter, who threw a no-hitter against Youngstown State on Friday. They know winning against the Wolverines on their home field will be a challenge.
"They're still the defending national champions, no matter which way you look at it," said Sooners asssistant coach Howard Dobson. "With her on the mound, she's a bulldog. She doesn't give you much to hit, so we just have to be patient and if we get something, we have to get after it. And if we get something in the zone, we have to swing the bat. We know she'll be tough on us, but we think the Big 12 has some pretty good pitching, too. So we just have to be aggressive."
Mathis will again take the mound for the Sooners, and the freshman is relishing her role as the go-to pitcher in the post season.
"I love it", said Mathis. "I've been waiting for it all season."
All remaining games from the regional will be broadcast on KOKC-AM 1520 as well as the O-Zone and Yahoo! Sports.