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Softball teams take shelter in Oklahoma storm

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    A tornado touches down near El Reno, Okla., Friday, May 31, 2013, causing damage to structures and injuring travelers on Interstate 40. I-40 has been closed after severe weather rolled through the area. (AP Photo/Omaha World-Herald, Chris Machian) MAGS OUT; ALL NEBRASKA LOCAL BROADCAST, TV OUT; ONLINE OUT
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OKLAHOMA CITY >> The NCAA postponed Friday night’s games at the Women’s College World Series until Saturday after severe weather in the Oklahoma City area.

The new schedule calls for Tennessee to play Washington, followed by the second winners’ bracket game between top-seeded Oklahoma and rival Texas. On Saturday night, there will be two elimination games: Florida against Nebraska, followed by Michigan against Arizona State.

The two elimination games that had been scheduled for Saturday night will instead be played Sunday. There will then be two games Sunday night featuring the final four teams remaining.

If there are any if-necessary elimination games — which had been scheduled for Sunday night — they will be played Monday and the best-of-3 finals would then start Tuesday night. Otherwise, the best-of-3 finals will start Monday night as planned.

The NCAA announced two hours before the scheduled start of the Tennessee-Washington game Friday that play would be delayed, and the teams weren’t at Hall of Fame Stadium when the storm system rolled through the area, dropping tornadoes along the way.

At least six of the teams sought shelter at the Cox Convention Center, which has an underground parking garage, and in the tunnels that connect it to hotels in downtown Oklahoma City.

“It’s kind of weird because you know there’s craziness going on above you but you can’t see it. You can’t hear it,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said in a phone interview. “You’re just like, ‘What is going on? What’s happening?'”

Each of the teams reported that their players and coaches were safe and accounted for despite a frightening experience.

“We had a couple girls in tears, so they were pretty scared,” Tarr said. “You just try to stay together and not let anybody get lost, first of all, in the basement and make sure everybody just stays close and just hope that everybody is safe around us.”

Tarr said her team had worked with a church to volunteer earlier in the week and help people who were affected by a deadly tornado that struck Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, on May 20.

“It was a really rewarding experience for our team to go and try to help anybody that was in need,” Tarr said.

“After seeing what a tornado can do to a neighborhood and a community, I think our team was even that much more fearful of what was happening tonight.”

Nebraska’s players and coaches took shelter twice, going to the parking garage for about 45 minutes before emergency personnel allowed them to go back to the hotel. They went back for another 15 minutes later with more severe weather approaching.

“We appreciate all of the people who were concerned for our safety and we’re happy to let everyone know we are all safe,” coach Rhonda Revelle said in a statement.

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said her team stayed in the garage for about 2 hours and gained peace of mind by being with families and Wolverines fans.

“Tonight softball talks a backseat because we know so many were not as fortunate to have the shelter that we did,” Hutchins said in a statement. “Please keep the people of Oklahoma in your thoughts.”

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