Special to The Sun
Nicole Workman’s solo home run gave Central Oklahoma a lead it would never relinquish and the No. 19-ranked Bronchos went on to topple Winona State 5-2 in the first game of the NCAA Division II Central Super Regional Friday night at the Edmond North High School Softball Complex.
Workman blasted her 14th homer of the season to lead off the second inning, with UCO adding three runs in the third and one more in the fifth to take a commanding 5-0 lead before the Warriors created some anxious moments in their final at bat.
WSU scored two runs and had runners on second and third on with just one out in the top of the seventh, but Kalynn Shrock got the final two batters to close out her fourth straight complete-game outing of the postseason and put the Bronchos in control of the best-of-three series.
UCO improved to 46-11 — tying a school record for wins — and dropped the Warriors to 37-13. The teams return at 2 p.m. Saturday, with the “if necessary” game set for 4:30.
The Central Super Regional champion joins seven other super regional winners in the Division II World Series that starts May 23 in Salem, Va.
“Nicole had a big hit to give us the lead and that let us relax a little bit,” head coach Genny Stidham said. “We had some key hits that got us a pretty good lead, but we also left some runs out there and you can’t do that against a team like Winona or they’ll make you pay.”
Ally Dziadula keyed UCO’s eight-hit attack from her lead-off spot once again, going 2-for-4 and scoring two runs.
Schrock allowed seven hits and one earned run while striking out nine as the junior left-hander improved to 29-6, setting a school single-season record for wins.
Both teams went down in order in the first inning, but Workman then opened the second with her bomb over the center field fence to put the Bronchos on top to stay.
Central Oklahoma loaded the bases with one out in the third on infield singles by Hannah Justus and Ally Dziadula and a fielder’s choice grounder by Kaylee Brunson before Kacie Edwards plated a run with a groundout.
Workman walked to re-load the bases and Sam Cool delivered another clutch postseason hit with a single through the right side that drove in two runs to up the lead to 4-0.
The Bronchos made it 5-0 in the fifth when Dziadula led off with a double off the wall in left-center field and scored one out later on Edwards’ double to the same spot.
UCO had a chance to end the game early in the bottom of the sixth, but failed to push across a run after loading the bases with no outs and Winona State almost made the Bronchos pay.
The Warriors got a lead-off solo homer from Jenny Nelson to start the seventh and then strung together three straight one-out singles, with an error allowing another run in.
That cut the lead to 5-2 and left runners on second and third, but Schrock responded by getting a groundout to Workman at third and an easy pop up back to the circle to finish off the win.