COLUMBIA, Mo. – The highly-anticipated matchup between Oklahoma’s top pitcher Keilani Ricketts and Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas lived up the hype, but it was an unlikely hero who delivered the game-winning, walk off home run for the Tigers in a 3-2 victory in the series opener on Saturday.
In front of the largest crowd of the season, plus all of the fans watching at home on Fox Sports Net, Missouri senior Abby Vock sent the Tiger faithful home happy after connecting on a 3-2 pitch from Ricketts, sending it over the wall in left field to give Missouri the walk off win in the ninth. Entering the ninth 0-for-1 on the day with two hit-by-pitches, Vock fouled off a few pitches and worked the count back to 3-2. She then turned on the inside pitch, hitting a no-doubter over the wall in left for her third home run of the season, a career high.
The pitcher’s duel between Thomas and Ricketts delivered on expectations, as they combined for 33 strikeouts and kept their team in the game by fighting through high pressure situations all day long. Thomas came out the victor, improving to 19-3 on the season while striking out a career-high 17 batters, the second most in a game ever at Missouri, as the Tigers picked up the win in their only extra inning game so far this season.
The Tigers picked up a run off Ricketts in the bottom of the first to take the early lead, as a bloop single off the bat of Catherine Lee drove in Jenna Marston. With one out, Marston legged out an infield single and stole second base. Two batters later, Lee poked a single into right field, allowing Marston to score.
Oklahoma had a chance to tie the game in the next half inning, but the Tiger defense came through for Thomas to keep the Sooners off the board. Just as Marston did, Dani Dobbs reached first with an infield single and then stole second base, all with one out. After a pop out, Chana’e Jones sent a base hit into center field, but senior Rhea Taylor came up firing and threw a bullet to Megan Christopher, who held on to the ball and put the tag on Dobbs, who came barreling home, for the inning’s final out.
Mizzou had a golden opportunity in the bottom half of that second inning, as they loaded the bases with only one out after singles by Christopher and Taylor sandwiched Vock’s first hit by pitch of the day. Ricketts worked out of it, however, getting Marston to strike out looking and Ashley Fleming to go down swinging, keep the Tiger lead at 1-0.
The Tigers wasted leadoff doubles in both the fourth and fifth innings, but base running blunders kept Missouri off the scoreboard. In the fourth, Christopher got things going with a double in to left field on a full count, and was pinch-ran for by Taylor Duplechain. After Vock was hit again, Duplechain got thrown out trying to steal third base with one out. In the fifth, Ashley Fleming led off with a double off the top of the wall in center field, but she would be retired two batters later on a fielder’s choice, as she was tagged out trying to advance to third on a ball hit to the left side of the infield.
The Sooners tied it up in the top of the fifth inning on a two out RBI single by Brianna Turang, scoring Dobbs who walked to start the inning and moved to second on sacrifice bunt.
Oklahoma would take the lead in the next inning, taking advantage of two errors by the Tiger defense. After an infield single led off the inning, the Sooners were given runners on the corners after a throwing error with one out. Missouri had a chance to get out of the jam, but another error scored the tying run. Haley Nix, who reached on the first error, stole second base on an attempted double steal. On the play, Christopher threw down to Hudson at third, who got Destinee Martinez in a run-down. However, Hudson’s return throw to the plate was in the dirt and skipped away from Christopher, giving the Sooners the unearned run.
From there, Thomas and Ricketts took over, sending the game into extra innings and to the ninth before Vock delivered the heroics for Missouri.