Lady Vols take cover in Oklahoma City; tornado postpones WCWS

Lady Vols to play Washington on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, noon)

andrew bruckse/tennessee athletics
Tennessee softball players, coaches and family take shelter Friday night underground at the Sheraton Hotel in Oklahoma City.

Photo by Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athleti, University of Tennessee Athletics and UTSports.com All Rights Reserved http://www.utsports.com contact: utadphoto@utk.edu

andrew bruckse/tennessee athletics Tennessee softball players, coaches and family take shelter Friday night underground at the Sheraton Hotel in Oklahoma City.

News Sentinel reporter Mike Strange describes scene in Oklahoma City after tornado passes through

Editor's Note: As of early Saturday morning, five were known dead and at least 50 hurt from the tornadoes that hit the Oklahoma City area Friday evening, where the Lady Vols are for the Women's College World Series.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Instead of a softball stadium, an underground parking garage was home field for Tennessee’s Lady Vols here Friday night.

The Women’s College World Series comes back to the surface Saturday to reset after being postponed by a tornado that swept through the area early Friday evening.

“I can only hope our minds will be on softball,’’ co-head coach Ralph Weekly said Friday night at the Sheraton Hotel, a few blocks north of the tornado’s path through downtown. Authorities said two people were killed.

The Lady Vols were supposed to play Washington at 7 p.m., in a winners’ bracket game.

That game has been reset for Saturday (TV: ESPN2, noon), to be followed by the other postponed winners’ bracket game between Oklahoma and Texas. Rain, however, might still be an issue.

Friday, at roughly the time the Lady Vols and Huskies were supposed to be starting at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Weekly and his wife, co-head coach Karen Weekly, were herding the team and their families underground.

A delay had already been announced with a severe weather front forming west of town.

Meanwhile, the entire area was bracing for another tornado, less than two weeks after the one that devastated the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, killing nearly two dozen people.

“We were glued to the television,’’ Ralph Weekly said. “We sat around until we heard the storms were about 20 minutes away.

“So we gathered all our girls and told them to get to the shelter. The sirens hadn’t gone off yet but having lived here when I was director of the national team, I knew it was time to get to the shelter.’’

The shelter was two levels down in an underground garage.

At least three other teams were also in the garage.

“There were 400 or 500 people down there,’’ Weekly said, “and our kids handled it really well.

“They were very mature and very organized. That’s their character. I didn’t see any panic or anything like that. A couple of the younger children that came along were crying, including my granddaughter.’’

The wait lasted about an hour. With intense rain bearing down, the roof began leaking. Then a water main in the garage broke, spraying a gusher.

“It was kind of scary down there,’’ Weekly said. “The lights went out a couple of times. But they were calm and said a few prayers.

“We found out Florida had gone to (the University of) Oklahoma (in Norman) to practice and got stranded in the Oklahoma football stadium by the second storm coming through. So we said a prayer for them, too.’’

What effect the storm and delay will have on the tournament remains to be seen.

Tennessee opened with an impressive 9-2 win over Florida on Thursday.

“There’s a lot going on right now,’’ Weekly said.

“I think the training we have had, having been through the debacle up at Missouri when we had to play three games in 19 hours, and all the rainouts in postseason, I think we’ll be ready to play tomorrow.’’

Follow Mike Strange on Twitter at Strangemike44?.

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Comments » 14

iseeuall1#651204 writes:

Just a thought, The NCAA could play this tournament anywhere. Soooooo why do they want to play it in Oklahoma in the middle of tornado season???? This just tells me the lives of the players and fans are nearly as important to the NCAA as the $$$$$. Because they make bucks, simple. Hopefully the Jerks that make these decisions will be caught outside during a tornado.

Columbo writes:

in response to iseeuall1#651204:

Just a thought, The NCAA could play this tournament anywhere. Soooooo why do they want to play it in Oklahoma in the middle of tornado season???? This just tells me the lives of the players and fans are nearly as important to the NCAA as the $$$$$. Because they make bucks, simple. Hopefully the Jerks that make these decisions will be caught outside during a tornado.

Are you really blaming a tornado on the greed of the NCAA? Almost anywhere on the east coast it would be hurricane season. Should we not have any sporting events around the ocean this summer? Natural disasters happen, but life goes on.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to iseeuall1#651204:

Just a thought, The NCAA could play this tournament anywhere. Soooooo why do they want to play it in Oklahoma in the middle of tornado season???? This just tells me the lives of the players and fans are nearly as important to the NCAA as the $$$$$. Because they make bucks, simple. Hopefully the Jerks that make these decisions will be caught outside during a tornado.

Tornado season ranges from about February until November. So when do you suggest playing these games? Where do you suggest playing these games. OKC has won the right to host because they were the one and only city stepping up to host this event before it became an espn showcase event, back when softball wasn't on most peoples minds.

Wishing ill on someone like that makes you look really bad especially when you are uninformed on the facts.

DroopyDrawers writes:

How bad do you want to win today, not tomorrow, but today?

Go Lady Vols!

kazoo writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Tornado season ranges from about February until November. So when do you suggest playing these games? Where do you suggest playing these games. OKC has won the right to host because they were the one and only city stepping up to host this event before it became an espn showcase event, back when softball wasn't on most peoples minds.

Wishing ill on someone like that makes you look really bad especially when you are uninformed on the facts.

Isn't this the height of tornado season--late spring and summer? Oklahoma has a serious tornado problem nowadays--and the NCAA should not be holding a World Series in a state where there is a high chance of life-threatening weather during the tournament. It is no knock on Oklahoma, but why would you have a tourney in a place with this kind of threat when you can hold it in any of 45 other states? It's absurd. This isn't just some passing thunderstorm--Oklahoma gets major tornadoes now ALL THE TIME.

kazoo writes:

in response to Columbo:

Are you really blaming a tornado on the greed of the NCAA? Almost anywhere on the east coast it would be hurricane season. Should we not have any sporting events around the ocean this summer? Natural disasters happen, but life goes on.

You are wrong. Tornadoes in Oklahoma at this time of year are a MUCH bigger problem than hurricanes. That's a silly comment. Hurricanes are rare--you might get one a season, and they take weeks to move up the coast from the Caribbean. Tornadoes can pop up daily--Oklahoma has had dozens of tornadoes, large and small, in recent weeks and months.

RockyTop1_old writes:

Stay safe and win!! GO LADY VOLS!!!

UTKin1992 writes:

in response to iseeuall1#651204:

Just a thought, The NCAA could play this tournament anywhere. Soooooo why do they want to play it in Oklahoma in the middle of tornado season???? This just tells me the lives of the players and fans are nearly as important to the NCAA as the $$$$$. Because they make bucks, simple. Hopefully the Jerks that make these decisions will be caught outside during a tornado.

I don't believe anyone else is getting your point, but I agree completely.

Nothing against Oklahoma, but there's gotta be a more conducive venue for kinder, gentler weather this time of year. The midwest is ground zero for dangerous late spring/early summer weather which not only risks game rain-outs, but gambles with people's lives - evidence by yesterday's events.

baldnbeautiful writes:

I would rather it be in the midwest than moved to the west coast. The Pac 10 teams are still the media darlings, why let them play with a home field advantage, climate-wise?
OKC is smack in the middle of the country, and is the recognized capital of Fastpitch Softball, not just in the USA but world wide as well.

frblalack writes:

The tournament needs to be held in OKC; that's the home of the Women's College World Series!

Some things need to be left alone!

FORTKNOXVOL writes:

Not sure if anyone got the real message in this story. It is about a man, mentor, and coach who cared about his girls and made sure they, along with their families, were safe long before the sirens went off. He was on Fox and Friends by phone this morning being interviewed. What a great statement about him, our team, and our school. Thanks Coach for what you and your wife do everyday for The University of Tennessee. Now go out there and take this entire thing. GO LADY VOLS.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to kazoo:

Isn't this the height of tornado season--late spring and summer? Oklahoma has a serious tornado problem nowadays--and the NCAA should not be holding a World Series in a state where there is a high chance of life-threatening weather during the tournament. It is no knock on Oklahoma, but why would you have a tourney in a place with this kind of threat when you can hold it in any of 45 other states? It's absurd. This isn't just some passing thunderstorm--Oklahoma gets major tornadoes now ALL THE TIME.

I've been watching the WCWS since espn first started showing them on TV and this is the first time this has happened. Time to cool off. And by the way, you know the baseball WS is in Omaha don't you?

RockySwamp writes:

You can now change that headline to:

Lady Vols take over.

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