Top-seeded Oklahoma knocks off Washington to reach finals of WCWS
OKLAHOMA CITY -- For a year now, getting close to a national championship and then falling short has stuck with Keilani Ricketts and her Oklahoma teammates.
After a season spent seeking redemption, that ultimate goal is finally within reach.
Lauren Chamberlain and Keilani Ricketts homered, speedster Brianna Turang scored twice and the top-seeded Sooners beat Washington 6-2 on Sunday night to reach the finals of the Women's College World Series for the consecutive year.
"We've been waiting for this moment for a whole year now, and it feels so great to be back," Turang said.
Turang tripled to lead off the third inning and scored when Kaitlin Inglesby (23-9) threw her next pitch too high for catcher Shawna Wright to handle even after she stood up. Chamberlain hit her 29th home run two pitches later and Ricketts tacked on a drive into the bleachers in right-center field to make it 3-0.
Kylee Lahners broke up a no-hit bid by Ricketts (34-1) by hitting the national player of the year's first pitch of the fifth inning over the center-field fence. The 11th-seeded Huskies (45-17) got to 4-2 on Shelby Pendley's throwing error before Ricketts struck out Victoria Hayward and Hooch Fagaly to end the rally.
Georgia Casey chipped in two RBIs - a run scoring single and a bases-loaded walk - for the Sooners (55-4), who open the best-of-three finals series Monday night against No. 7-seed Tennessee.
"Words can't express how excited we are to be here, although our actions may not look like it. This is a very focused and determined team that had one goal, and that is to goal to get back and have a chance to win a national championship," coach Patty Gasso said. "It is difficult to do, and it has been difficult this entire year."
The Sooners have been the nation's top-ranked team since the first week of the regular season and have won five of their eight NCAA games because they were up by at least eight runs after five innings.
Washington put up a little more fight.
After Ricketts stomped out the fifth-inning rally, she gave up a single to Inglesby and walked Wright before getting Whitney Jones to ground out and end the sixth. Ricketts allowed just three hits while striking out 12. She walked two hitters and hit two more with pitches.
Destinee Martinez tacked on a run-scoring groundout in the seventh for the Sooners.
"They're a very well-rounded team. They have a great offense and they have pitching in the circle, too. It's very tough to pitch to them," Inglesby said. "I think they hit my mistakes really well and they put some great balls in play."
Oklahoma lost to Alabama in last year's championship series, winning Game 1 and leading the third game before a rain delay. The Crimson Tide rallied to deny the Sooners their second national championship and first since 2000.
"Right now, we're a team that's peaking," Gasso said. "We're playing very, very good softball all the way through the lineup. Everyone is contributing."