NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso couldn't help but get choked up a bit after her team reached the Women's College World Series for the third straight year.
``I couldn't be more excited for a team that has struggled throughout this whole year,'' Gasso said. ``One thing we know is you have to suffer before you reach the glory, and everyone on this team has struggled at one point during this year.''
The Sooners didn't struggle at all on Sunday as they beat Texas A&M 8-1 to win their regional tournament.
Oklahoma (49-14) will play California (52-10) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the WCWS, which is held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
``Everybody counted us out going into this season,'' shortstop Kelli Braitsch said. ``But there's always been a huge desire to win on this team.''
Christy Ring had three of Oklahoma's 13 hits and Jennifer Stump homered and scored three runs for the Sooners, who were seeded second in the regional. They scored three runs in the first inning and weren't threatened after that.
Ring singled to lead off the first inning and scored on a single by Christina Enea. Oklahoma's other two first-inning runs came on bases-loaded walks by Jessica Slataper, who didn't make it out of the inning.
After Lindsay Wilhelmson's RBI single in the second inning made it 3-1, the Sooners scored once in the third and then used six hits to score three more runs in the fifth.
Stump closed out the scoring in the sixth with her 10th homer of the season.
Jennifer Stewart (22-6) pitched a complete game for the victory, allowing eight hits and striking out four.
``This is when I turn it on every year,'' said Stewart, who pitched OU to the 2000 WCWS title. ``I decided I wasn't going to be denied my last time to play at home and I wanted to leave this field a winner.''
Ring was 3-for-4 Sunday and finished the tournament 11-for-15.
``She's so hot right now,'' Gasso said. ``She's been waiting to get this feeling.''