Kelli Braitsch made two errors, had no hits, scored no runs and drove in none on Saturday. Bad day? Hardly.
Braitsch, Oklahoma University's shortstop, had as much to do with the Sooners' 2-1 softball victory over Kansas as anybody.
Braitsch helped beat Kansas with her reputation as the Big 12 Conference's most dangerous hitter. As such, KU coach Tracy Bunge ordered Braitsch intentionally passed to load the bases with the score knotted at 1 in the seventh inning.
"Braitsch has been one of the best hitters in the country," Bunge said. "She leads the conference in just about every offensive category. I'd do it again."
After KU pitcher Kara Pierce threw four wide ones to Braitsch to fill the bases, Pierce walked Christy Ring on four pitches to force in the winning run.
"A couple of those pitches could have been called either way," Bunge said diplomatically.
Pierce was less diplomatic about home plate umpire Duane Murray's strike zone.
"On the first couple of pitches, the umpire shrunk the strike zone, in my opinion," said Pierce, a freshman from Mesa, Ariz., whose 12-game winning streak ended. "They were good drop balls on the corner. I needed to focus and throw strikes after that, and I didn't."
Clearly distraught, Pierce had to be consoled by Bunge following the post-game meeting in right field.
Oklahoma 2, Kansas 1
"She's feeling the weight of the loss is on her shoulders and she shouldn't be," Bunge said. "Kara Pierce was phenomenal. That's one of the best offensive teams in the country and they've been hot."
Echoed KU second baseman Amy Hulse: "She was incredible. Not many people have shut Oklahoma down like she did today."
Pierce allowed six singles, two walks and she hit two batters. Meanwhile, OU standout Jennifer Stewart gave Kansas just four hits and boosted her record to a glossy 27-3.
Stewart pitched out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth by enticing Hulse to hit into a pitcher-to-catcher-to-first double play.
"Hulse rips the ball right to Stewart and she makes a perfect throw home," Bunge said. "I tip my hat to Oklahoma for doing enough to win, but for it to end like it did is very frustrating."
One bright spot for the Jayhawks was the return of All-Big 12 outfielder Shelly Musser, out for most of the last two weeks with a back injury. Musser singled in KU's lone run in the fifth following Katie Campbell's team-leading 15th double, the only extra-base hit of the day.
"We didn't know until she worked out and took some swings if she'd be able to play," Bunge said of Musser. "To have her back and for her to get a big base hit was a lift for the team."
Kansas and Oklahoma will tangle at 1 p.m. again today at Jayhawk Field.
"This team is not very happy because close isn't good enough anymore," Bunge said. "We'll be fired up and ready to play again tomorrow."
Notes: KU officials listed the standing-room-only crowd at 783 even though the listed capacity of Jayhawk Field is 1,000. Oklahoma has won 12 in a row, is 13-2 in the league and 39-7 overall. Kansas is 9-5 and 30-22. By going 0-for-3, Kelli Braitsch's league-leading batting average dipped from .457 to .448. OU's gaudy team batting average fell from .343 to .340. Nearly half of KU designated player Katie Campbell's hits (32) have been doubles (15). OU first baseman Lisa Carey, a Washburn Rural product, had two singles and drove in the Sooners' first run.