Vanessa Shippy said she thought the stars had aligned.
With her team down a run in the seventh inning, Shippy, a senior on the Oklahoma State softball team, waited for the ensuing pitch while Caleigh Clifton stood on third base and Nicole Mendes on first for Oklahoma. Shay Knighten hit a blooper toward left field, but Madi Sue Montgomery made a diving catch to end the inning.
After watching the spectacular grab, OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said he walked into the huddle near the dugout without much to say on Senior Day. Gajewski said he told his players, in front of the sellout crowd Friday at Cowgirl Stadium, the moment had come.
“(I was thinking) we are ready to go,” Shippy said. “We are going to win this game.”
That walk-off feeling and jubilation never came, though, and OSU lost 3-2 against OU, the two-time defending national champion. Shippy hit a two-out single with nobody on base, which had the crowd seemingly on the edge of its seats, but Taylor Lynch hit a soft dribbler to Eliyah Flores for the final out.
Dating to 2011, OSU (36-18 overall, 12-5 Big 12) has lost 19 consecutive Bedlam matchups, including twice this season; the three-game series ends with a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday in Norman on ESPN.
Wednesday, the third-ranked Sooners’ (46-3, 17-0) won on run-rule in five innings, allowing no hits, but OSU didn’t let that performance linger. OSU started the first inning strong with three hits, including a lead-off double from Shippy and a RBI-single from freshman Sydney Pennington, whose father played baseball at OU, and jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
“I really just had an attitude of nothing to lose,” Pennington said. “(OU) had already won the Big 12 conference, but we still wanted to prove we could beat them. (I went out) there relaxed and I had that mentality. … I was just trying to get back to my old self, having fun.”
OU answered with a five-hit flurry from Fale Aviu, Raegan Rodgers, Lea Wodach, Sydney Romero and Clifton in the second inning, scoring all three of its runs. Logan Simunek, who finished the game allowing one hit from Clifton, a double, in the seventh and no runs, replaced Emmie Robertson for the final out of the inning.
In the third inning, the momentum started to shift. OSU started with a walk for Shippy and a single from Montgomery with only one out, which made OU coach Patty Gasso decide to replace Mariah Lopez with Paige Lowary, who was recently selected with the first pick in the National Pro Fastpitch League draft.
Pennington swung at the first pitch from Lowary, hitting her second RBI-single and scoring Shippy again to cut the deficit to 3-2. As her teammate scored, Montgomery got caught trying to go to third base, and, then Whitehorn popped out moments later, killing the momentum swing.
“I think she had thought the ball had got away,” Gajewski said. “Then, she kind of caught out in no man’s land. If we watch it again, I think she hesitated; if she would have gone, she would have been safe. I can’t really help her there because I am trying to get Shippy home. It is just unlucky. I don’t know if that cost us, to be honest.”
“… It is what it is. I wouldn’t trade that kid for anything. She tried to hustle and make something happen, but that is the way it goes.”
Gajewski will try to forget that moment, but he said he will remember the diving catch Montgomery made in the seventh inning. Simunek continued to duel with Lowary in the circle, keeping OSU in the game.
Standing on first base after her seventh-inning single, Shippy said she looked into the crowd and soaked in the moment. She said she knew, no matter what Lynch did after her, that would be final at-bat at Cowgirl Stadium.
Reflecting on what could have been, Gajewski and Shippy said the loss hurts, but the season isn’t finished. OSU has another shot against OU and the postseason remaining.
“It is the process, and sometimes it really hurts,” Gajewski said. “It should hurt if you bleed orange, you are bought in and you want to be a part of something great; it is not easy.
“… I am proud of our team. (OU) is a really good team, we know that. It is no secret. We gave them a good shot here, but unfortunately moral victories don’t count. We just got to keep plugging away.”