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May 29—It was not perfect.

Or, it was not quite as perfect as it appeared it was going to be.

What it was, however, was still more than any Sooner, Sooner coach, or Sooner fan might have expected or even hoped might occur.

It was also enough, especially should it get backed up today by another similar performance, to look at Oklahoma entirely differently on the way out of the Norman Super Regional than the Sooners deserved to be looked at on their way into it.

OU starting pitcher Nicole May entered the top of the seventh inning with a thee-run lead, having retired 11 of 13 Washington batters going back to the third inning, a 3 2/3 inning span in which she allowed no runs, two hits and walked nobody.

It’s not something you could say often about Sooner pitching against quality competition this season, but the freshman from Pleasanton, California, was, there’s no other word for it, dominating.

She did not dominate the seventh inning.

The final score wound up being 4-2 because May allowed a one-out solo home run to Kelley Lynch, and the contest only ended when it ended because Washington’s Taryn Atlee, who reached on an error charged to Sooner third baseman Jana Johns, misguidedly sprinted home as the Sooners tried turning a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

OU didn’t quite pull it off, but did wind up pulling off the far more rare 4-6-3-2 double play to to end it: second baseman Tiare Jennings, to shortstop Grace Lyons, to first baseman Taylon Snow, to catcher Kinzie Hansen, who, tagged Atlee out on a play that might have been bang, bang, but wasn’t very close.

So, it wasn’t quite a masterpiece, because masterpieces can’t include two seventh-inning hits, one a home run, after you’ve retired 11 of 13.

Yet, goodness was it good Friday afternoon at Marita Hynes Field.

“Holding them to two runs, seven hits, is a victory,” said Sooner coach Patty Gasso, who reported she’d made the decision to start May just hours before the game began, Friday morning.

More than that were the facts May looked the part as she did it, and sounded the part after she did it.

There were two quite telling moments over the contest’s seven frames.

One came in the third inning, when Washington’s Jadelyn Allchin and Sis Bates smacked back-to-back singles. Allchin’s coming with an error from OU’s Nicole Mendes who wildly tried throwing her out at first base, thereby allowing her to reach second.

Bates’ single, therefore, put runners at the corners with only one out.

May needed five pitches to get out of the inning, four of them strikes, popping up Baylee Klingler and not quite allowing Morganne Flores to barrel a rising fastball, getting her to fly out to the warning track instead.

Two innings later, May threatened to allow her only walk, going 3-0 on Atlee, yet responded with five straight pitches in the strike zone, the last of which the Husky lofted harmlessly to Sooner left fielder Mackenzie Donihoo.

She wasn’t afraid to throw the ball over the plate, wasn’t afraid to challenge hitters when the moment demanded they be challenged and wasn’t lit up when she did, all of which are characteristics of a No. 1 starter, a quantity OU’s not been able to claim this season, prior to Friday at least.

“Those moments just kind of made me realize, like … ‘I’m not going to walk her … I don’t want to put her on base and have the bases loaded,'” May said. “So it’s kind of like a dig deep type of moment, where I’m like, ‘No, I’m not going to let this happen.'”

All of which is exactly the right thought process. Indeed, were you to fictionalize the best possible quite depicting a pitcher not deterred by the adversity May faced, you could not do better than May’s own words.

Her thinking was pretty good before she walked out to start her first game in almost six weeks, too.

“I felt good,” she said. “I was like, ‘What do I have to lose? Might as well just go all out.'”

She did.

It worked.

It worked so well, one can now envision OU not having to slug its way to the program’s fifth national championship, but to have a secondary path behind strong pitching.

Entering, you know how many times the Sooners had failed to score five runs.

In 50 games, twice.

Friday made it three.

They won anyway.

They won because they had the pitching required to win a game like that.

It’s a whole new world.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning