Oklahoma tops Arizona for WCWS bid
Ricketts strikes out 13 -- nine consecutive -- as Sooners roll
NORMAN, Okla. -- No. 4 Oklahoma punched a ticket to its seventh Women’s College World Series with a 7-1 win against Arizona on Saturday, marking its second consecutive super regional sweep of the Wildcats.
OU moved to 50-8 on the year, its eighth season with at least 50 wins, as it swept Arizona to advance to the WCWS for the second consecutive year. Arizona fell to 38-19.
The Sooners finished the day with 10 hits, their 15th game this season with double-figure hits, and two home runs, their 27th game with multiple home runs.
Keilani Ricketts got the start for Oklahoma in the circle and turned in one of the most dominant performances of her career. At one point she struck out nine consecutive Arizona batters to retire the side in the second, third and fourth innings. In all, Ricketts struck out 13 Wildcats, her 23rd double-digit strikeout game of the season and the 60th of her career. A finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year award, Ricketts allowed just one walk on the day while giving up three hits.
“I just can’t tell you how proud I am of this team to have come so far and work so hard to get here and knowing that we’re playing our best softball right now,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “To know what’s ahead of us and know that we’re playing our best right now is really, really exciting. You didn’t see a lot of dog piling out there and I think it’s because this team knows that there is going to be one dog pile that they’re going to save it for and that’s in Oklahoma City. It’s almost the expectation, 'Hey let’s get this done and move forward.' They came out ready to play from the start, loose and comfortable, on fire.”
Despite playing as the visiting team on its home field, Oklahoma jumped out to an early lead for the second consecutive game as the first seven OU batters reached base safely to give the Sooners five runs. Georgia Casey led off the day with a walk before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Oklahoma had runners on the corners for Lauren Chamberlain after Destinee Martinez legged out a single to the pitcher.
A Chamberlain walk loaded the bases for Ricketts who singled to left center to bring home Casey before Jessica Shults walked to bring in Martinez. Erica Sampson picked up an RBI when she was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to plate Chamberlain. After Brianna Turang reached on a fielder’s choice with Ricketts being thrown out at home, an error from Arizona third baseman Brigette Del Ponte allowed both Shults and Sampson to scamper home.
The 5-0 score remained the same until the fifth inning when Shults led off the inning with a solo shot, her 19th home run of the season and the 53rd of her career.
Not to be outdone in the sixth inning, Chamberlain, the Big 12 single-season record holder in home runs, added a solo shot of her own over the left field fence to extend Oklahoma’s lead to seven runs. Chamberlain’s 27 home runs this season is tied for 11th all-time in NCAA single-season history.
Arizona picked up its lone run of the super regional in the sixth when an error from Javen Henson at third base for Oklahoma allowed Karissa Buchanan to reach home.