OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma State’s Karli Petty had been a part of big moments at USA Hall of Fame Stadium before.
There were a few more people watching this time.
The junior won two state championships for Southmoore (Okla.) High School in the venue and said she felt comfortable. She showed it by hitting a three-run homer in the sixth inning that helped the Cowgirls beat Arizona 4-2 on Thursday night in the Women’s College World Series opener for both teams.
“It’s really nice to come back and play somewhere that’s really familiar, and it’s just even better to come back with over 12,000 fans,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see how much this place has grown from when I was little growing up. It’s an amazing feeling to be in this moment in all aspects of my life.”
It was just the fifth homer of the season for Petty. Her unlikely blast helped the seventh-seeded Cowgirls (47-12) advance to play Florida on Saturday in the winners’ bracket of the double-elimination phase.
She wasn’t looking to hit a home run.
“With runners in scoring position, I needed to put the ball in play,” she said. “I really focused on just getting on top and driving it through the middle. That was my whole approach that entire at-bat.”
Kelly Maxwell (20-4), an NFCA first-team All-American, threw a complete game for Oklahoma State and struck out 14. She struck out all three batters swinging in the seventh.
“I think we’re seeing one of the best pitchers in the country,” Arizona catcher Sharlize Palacios said. “That’s the big part. She’s a really good pitcher, and there’s going to be strikeouts.”
The Cowgirls closed out a perfect first day for Big 12 teams after Oklahoma and Texas won earlier.
“I think what it does is validates the fact that this conference is really good,” Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski said. “It’s been really good, and it’s good to have three of us here and three of us getting the winner’s side. That’s what it’s all about. Very happy for all of us.”
Hanah Bowen (13-11) gave up five hits in five innings.
“I think they just capitalized on pitches, especially in the right moments,” Bowen said.
The Wildcats (38-21) will play fellow Pac-12 member Oregon State in an elimination game Friday.
“I definitely think that us not getting our heads down is the biggest thing,” Palacios said. “We played an amazing game, and it was one pitch that changed the difference. You take away that pitch and it’s a different game.”
Oklahoma State opened the scoring in the bottom of the fourth when Sydney Pennington singled to score Brianna Evans. Pennington was thrown out at second, and that helped Arizona limit the damage to one run.
Palacios hit a two-run homer in the fifth to give the Wildcats the lead. It was her 20th of the season.
Oklahoma State loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Katelynn Carwile, who entered the World Series with a team-best .353 batting average, flied out to left.
Oklahoma State’s Miranda Elish led off the sixth with a walk. Pennington followed with a single down the right field line, and she advanced on a fielding error to put runners at second and third with no outs. Petty took advantage with the homer to center that put the Cowgirls up 4-2.
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