Miami hangs in early, but No. 1 Oklahoma pulls away
Defending NCAA champs extend nation's top win streak
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- College softball's finest came to Oxford Saturday as the No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners joined Louisville, Oakland University and hosting Miami in the Miami Invitational. Not surprinsingly, Oklahoma was the only team to leave without a loss, recording run-rule victories over Louisiville (10-1) and Miami (13-1).
The Sooners are now riding a 31--game winning streak, with the only loss coming at Baylor (4-3) back on Feb. 19. Those two teams are set to meet again Friday.
The Miami Invitational was . . .
. . . originally scheduled for action spread from Friday to Sunday, with the RedHawks facing Louisville Friday, Oakland Saturday and Oklahoma Sunday. However, weather projections for the second day led to moving Sunday action to Saturday.
After falling to Louisville Friday, 12-4, Miami pulled out a 1-0 victory over Oakland in a noon start. Brianna Pratt went the distance to pick up a win in that one, raising her record to 18-9 on the year.
DEADLOCKED THROUGH TWO
Pratt got the start again in the 7 p.m. tilt against Oklahoma, and MU stayed with the Sooners early. It was 0-0 after two innings, but Jayda Coleman singled in one run and Tiare Jennings followed with a rocket double to center for two more runs.
Pratt left two runners stranded after inducing a couple fly outs to end the inning. Miami (24-16) then got one of the runs back with a bomb to right by Maddi Banks. Her towering shot easily cleared the wall and bounced off the roof of an equipment building.
"It was the first pitch -- up (and a) rise. That's what I was looking for," Banks said. "When you play teams like this, you just go up there and take your best cuts, and that is what I was looking to do."
As impressive as the blast was, Banks was particularly pleased with the way it ended in front of a record home crowd. "Coming back and celebrating with my team was what it was all about."
"She's our nine-hole (hitter), so we don't really expect (homers) from her, so when she does hit (one), it's pretty awesome," Miami head coach Kirin Kumar said. ""I think she ran faster around the bases than I run to first, so it's fun to see."
Oklahoma (39-1) responded in kind, with Alynah Torres ripping the first of four Sooner homers on the day. However, Pratt allowed just one more hit -- a single -- in the inning, and MU trailed 4-1 after four frames.
SOONERS PULL AWAY
Sophia Nugent's two-run homer in the fifth gave Oklahoma a five-run cushion. The Maroon and White then blew things open with a seven-run sixth inning.
The Sooners finished with 16 hits. Nine came over the last two innings, with reliever Laurelai DePew surrendering three hits and three runs in the final frame. She also recorded Miami pitching's only strikeout of the contest.
Third-baseman Karli Spaid led Miami's six-hit total with two hits in three plate appearances.
Oklahoma's Nicole May struck out five while allowing four hits in 4.1 innings to pick up her 12th win in as many decisions. Jordi Bahl allowed two hits and struck out two.
MIAMI 1, OAKLAND 0
The RedHawks first game on Saturday turned into a defensive battle as the Grizzlies stymied several potential MU rallies with some outstanding defensive plays. Holly Blaska's two-out double to right field in the third was one of those plays as she was cut down by a perfect relay while going for third.
Miami pitcher Brianna Pratt (18-9), meanwhile, helped herself with 11 strikeouts. She also worked out of a fifth inning jam in which Oakland advanced runners to second and third with one out.
The RedHawks finally broke through in the sixth. Blaska got the rally started with a lead off double to left. Karli Spaid worked her way through 10 pitches before fouling out to deep right. Blaska moved to third on the play. After a pop out to short, Riley Coyne blooped a single just over first base to drive in the game's only run.
Blaska and Coyne both went 2-for-3 to lead Miami's six-hit production.
Stacey Campbell (11-5) took the loss for Oakland.
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Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.