OKLAHOMA CITY -- Playing in front of yet another record-setting crowd at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma put up dominating offensive numbers in a 4-1 victory against Alabama to take the lead in the best-of-three NCAA championship series. Oklahoma (54-8) is now one win away from the program’s second national championship, while Alabama (58-8) must defeat the Sooners on both Tuesday and Wednesday in order to capture the title.

Tuesday’s game is scheduled for a 8:06 p.m. ET first pitch on ESPN2.

In the early going, Oklahoma pounded out hits without scoring a run, while the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, OU’s Keilani Ricketts, was collecting strikeouts. The teams traded zeroes in the runs column for the first three innings.

Jackie Traina led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single through the left side. After Cassie Reilly-Boccia was hit by a Ricketts pitch, the pair of runners advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch. The Tide scored the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly to deep right field by catcher Kendall Dawson, giving UA a 1-0 lead after four complete.

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In the top of the fifth, Oklahoma answered. Lauren Chamberlain drew a leadoff walk before Ricketts lined a single inches over the shortstop’s glove into left field for a double. The Sooners then answered with a sacrifice fly of their own as Jessica Shults hit a ball to deep centerfield that plated Chamberlain. Jennifer Fenton threw to third, and was able to keep Ricketts at second base, but the game was tied at one.

A Katie Norris single advanced pinch runner Ali Vandever to third base, placing runners on the corners for Brianna Turang, who scored Vandever on a fielders choice. OU would go on to load the bases in the inning, but Traina managed the threat and got out of the inning with the Sooners scoring just a pair and leading 2-1.

Two more runs went up for the Sooners in the top of the sixth. Destinee Martinez opened the inning by reaching base on a fielding error, going to second on the play. With one out, Ricketts also reached base on an error with Martinez going to third. As OU head coach Patty Gasso had pinch-run for Ricketts in the fifth inning, she stayed in to run the bases, stealing second and going to third on a Jessica Shults single that scored Martinez.

A perfect suicide squeeze bunt put down by Norris plated Ricketts, making the score 4-1, Oklahoma, heading to the bottom of the sixth.

“She’s just a tremendous athlete who wants to compete and wants to win,” said Gasso of Ricketts stolen base and suicide squeeze run in the sixth. “I’m not afraid to run with her. I think the squeeze was probably one of the biggest plays just because it gave us insurance. We know that going up against a team like Alabama with so much power and tradition, you need insurance.” 

Ricketts (37-7) put together yet another dominating performance in the pitching circle, striking out 12 batters and walking one while allowing a single run on five hits and a walk.

For the Sooners, Martinez went 2-for-4 in the game, while Norris (2-for-3) and Turang (2-for-4) both had multiple hits and RBI in the contest. Shults was the only Sooner with multiple RBI, one coming on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning and a second with an RBI single in the sixth inning.

Fenton was the only Crimson Tide player with multiple hits in the game, going 2-for-4 on the night. UA pitcher Traina (40-3) struck out six and walked four, allowing four runs (two earned) on 11 hits.

NOTES
• The 2012 Women’s College World Series has set new attendance records in every session thus far. Monday night’s crowd of 8,197 was the largest ever to attend the first game of the championship series.

• OU junior pitcher Keilani Ricketts struck out 12 batters, giving her double-digit strikeouts in all four of the Sooners WCWS contests.