Deal holds off Cougars, Sooners headed for Red River title game

May 10—Softball can be a maddening game, and the career of a pitcher in particular is full of highs and lows.

Oklahoma's Kierston Deal was prepared for that reality. She's experienced it plenty of times through her two seasons with the Sooners, and that played a big role in her success in Friday's 13-2 win over BYU.

"Just free," Deal said about her mindset. "Playing with an empty mind and not letting any situation really get the best of me. My breathing has been really helping me with just keeping myself locked in."

The lefty had one of the top offenses in the Big 12 stumped for over four innings. That same offense had just put up seven runs on seven hits to upset Oklahoma State the day before.

But with the Sooners needing just one more strike to seal a run-rule win over the Cougars, Deal hadn't given up a hit all game.

The next batter hit a blooper into shallow right field that landed in the gap in front of the right fielder for a single. Then, BYU leadoff hitter Hailey Morrow hit a two-run home run over the center field wall.

It was a crushing blow. Not because the Cougars were making any real threat to take the lead back, the Sooners still held an 11-run lead. Instead, it served as basically the only stain on a nearly perfect performance from Deal and the Sooners.

Still, Deal wasn't going to let that play affect her confidence. She focused on her breathing and continuing to trust her stuff.

"It helps me stay sane," Deal said.

Six pitches later, Deal forced a ground out that secured a 13-2 win in the Big 12 semifinals.

With the win, the Sooners advance to the Big 12 championship game for the seventh consecutive season. They'll face No. 1 seed Texas on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Devon Park.

The sophomore's final line was two hits and two runs allowed in five innings pitched with four strikeouts and two walks.

"I thought this as one of her better games," head coach Patty Gasso said. "It was a great rebound from last weekend, so I was really happy with that and I'm excited to see what she does moving forward."

Deal made two appearances last weekend against Oklahoma State gave up six hits and five earned runs in one combined inning pitched. The Sooners have need more stability from their pitching staff and Deal's performance is a positive sign at the beginning of their postseason run.

Still, the Sooners' offense also played a big role in keeping the Cougars off their rhythm and a pair of freshman got them started. Ella Parker put the first run on the board with a solo home run into right field.

Then Kasidi Pickering stepped up and drove in two runs on a single. The Sooners added two more runs in the third, but really caught fire in the fourth.

"Well played," Gasso said about the win. "We played a great offense, a lot of hustling. Plays on the base paths, attacking, aggressive, strong — everything that use to describe us. It's coming back."

They scored five runs on five hits to open up the inning before the Cougars got their first out.

They finished off their final inning on offense scoring eight runs on six hits.

Parker went 3-4 on the day and was a triple shy of hitting the cycle with three RBI. Alyssa Brito went 3-3 with two RBI.

After an up-and-down season, the Sooners have returned to form early in their postseason run, winning their first two games by a combined score of 23-3.

"What you're seeing right now is response to some of that. And it might be a little bit late, but we want to in national championships. I mean, you can be the best of 12 in a conference or you can be the best of 300.

"We're always searching for trophies. Trust me, we're hunting for them. But it's never too late."

Tarik Masri is the sports editor for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing