NORMAN, Okla. — Caleigh Clifton kicked off “Caleigh Clifton Day” with a resounding statement in her first at-bat.
The senior sent a two-run shot to right center and ignited a 16-0 rout of Baylor on Sunday.
“Happy Caleigh Clifton Day, I guess,” coach Patty Gasso said.
Clifton’s senior day performance included two hits and four RBIs in two at-bats, and her first-inning homer prompted a well-rounded day for the Sooners, who clinched a series sweep of the Bears in a 5-inning run-rule win.
“I’m proud of this team this weekend,” Gasso said. “Sometimes when you get your two games and you know you won the series, you can kind of sit back and say, ‘We’re good.’ They want to work to get better every game. You can feel that.”
Clifton’s fellow seniors — Sydney Romero and Fale Aviu — contributed to OU’s offensive explosion and the team's most lopsided win of the year.
Romero went 3-for-4 and added an RBI, while Aviu recorded two runs and two RBIs after going 2-for-3 against the Bears.
OU’s dominant win marked a program record 46 consecutive home victories — although, Gasso says OU’s seniors are fairly oblivious to the milestones they’ve achieved so far their final season.
"I didn’t know we were on (a streak)," Aviu said. "We’re just enjoying every moment and having, like coach was saying, joy in the pursuit of what we’re doing here."
A distraction-free and disciplined softball team naturally makes life easier on Gasso.
The Sooners’ senior group, which has won two national championships and three Big 12 titles, doesn’t need much instruction inning to inning, which gives Gasso the chance to take a step back often and just watch.
“What’s really cool about this group, I feel more pressure than they do,” Gasso said. “I feel more tense than they do. There are times when I just stay out of their way. I really do. I probably talked less to them in between innings than ever, because what am I gonna say to a team that knows exactly what to do?
“I told them today, I sit back and watch like a fan because I can really see what it looks like. It’s why this stadium is packed. Everybody likes watching this style of play and these athletes.”
OU’s players certainly didn’t look like a group feeling much pressure as music blared from the Marita Hynes Field speakers.
The Sooners danced between innings, led the crowd in chants and showed love to some of OU’s reserves, who earned playing time amid the rout.
“I always see (the reserves) in the (dugout) cheering as loud as possible,” Aviu said. “When I see them get their chance, we’re all super happy for them ... so it’s super cool to watch.”
OU’s blowout win turned into an opportunity for Gasso to peek at her team’s future.
Freshman Sami Skelly, in particular, hit her second career home run for OU on Sunday, which Gasso called a “tremendous at-bat.”
The Sooners were happy to go to their bench, especially with a departing senior group that’s set the bar high over its four years in Norman and looked as dominant as ever against Baylor.
“A lot of these athletes on our bench could be starting at other programs,” Gasso said. “They know that. … When you look at our lineup, anybody would go, ‘Where do I fit?’ These guys got that in their training to help us now, but also for the future because it’s gonna be very impossible to replace these seniors that are in the lineup. They know they have to keep working.”