Chamberlain’s Homer Sparks OU to Opening Game 5-1 Win in WCWS
OKLAHOMA CITY –Too often college pitchers this season have found out that Oklahoma slugger Laura Chamberlain will make you pay if you miss a pitch against her. University of South Florida pitcher Sara Nevins (31-7) was the latest to learn that lesson as she gave up a two-run homer to Chamberlain in the opening game of the 31st Women’s College World Series Thursday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Trailing 1-0 after USF scored an unearned run on a Kourtney Salvarola RBI single against Sooner ace left-hander Keilani Ricketts (34-7) in the top of the fourth, Nevins faced Chamberlain after walking Destinee Martinez to open the bottom of the fourth inning. Nevins hurled an illegal pitch moving Martinez before Chamberlain, with a 1-1 count, sent a tremendous drive against the wind over the center field fence to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead, 2-1. The home run was Chamberlain’s 28th of the year, which moved her into ninth on the NCAA’s all-time single home run list. In three at-bats, Chamberlain finished the game with two hits, two runs scored and two RBIS. Holding on to a 2-1 lead, on an RBI single by Kourtney Salvarola, the Sooners blew the game open in the sixth inning, scoring four times en route to a 5-1 win.
Chamberlain admitted “I was just struggling a little bit in my first at-bat on just trying to catch up with her speed. Getting a little jammed on it, but tried to keep the same approach of just getting a good pitch and putting a good swing on it. So second time around, I didn’t want to get cheated.”
The homer was only the seventh allowed by Nevins, now 5-2 in the NCAA tournament. Asking about the home run pitch, Nevins said, “I mean, I guess, I could have gotten the ball in more. But, I mean, just come back and play well next time.”
The next time the Bulls (50-13),who are competing in the WCWS for the first time, will play is Saturday at 11 a.m. against LSU. The Tigers gave No. 1 ranked California everything it wanted before losing 5-3 to conclude Thursday’s first session, which drew a first session record 8, 149 people.
The Oklahoma win snapped a four-game WCWS losing streak that dated back to 2004 when they defeated Washington 8-2 in its first-round game. In its seventh WCWS appearance OU improved to 8-10 all-time and 4-3 in first-round action. The game figured to be a pitcher’s dual between Nevins and Ricketts and was as they matched each other strikeout for strikeout. Ricketts fanned 11 and walked only one, allowing three hits. It was the 23rd time this season and fourth in the postseason she has reached double digits in strikeouts. Ricketts has not given up an earned run in 33 innings pitched. Ricketts also missed a home run in the sixth inning when the wind blowing in prevented the ball from going over the left field fence, although it bounced off the fence. Her RBI triple brought home Chamberlain, who had hit her ninth double of the year, for the first run of the fourth. Ricketts eventually scored on Brianna Turang’s single and pinch-hitter Brittany Williams walked with the bases loaded to bring in the fourth and final run of the inning.
Nevins allowed four hits and five earned runs, striking out seven and walking five in her 4.2 innings of work. USF also used Lindsey Richardson (1.1 innings) and Sam Greiner against the Sooners.
Ken Eriksen, USF head coach, said this about OU, “they’re a pretty tough team. They’ve got a pretty touch pitcher, and we’ve got a pretty tough pitcher and a pretty good team also. And I thought their team took advantage of a couple mistake that we made pitching-wise, and we did the same, except we might have made a few more. You’ve got to play flawless softball to move on into the winners’ bracket. And the nice opportunity that we have is to take tomorrow, do some things to get better for Saturday, and come out to play whoever we play.”
OU coach Patty Gasso was glad to get the opening game over. “Just tough to get started right out of the chute. But I think we were excited to get it over with and not sit around and wait all day and watch games and have that anxiety. So I’m glad we had this first game. But Sara Nevins is a tough, tough lefty; very, very good pitcher. I don’t want to face her again. I hope we don’t. She’s really a tough pitcher and did a fantastic job. I think what I loved about our team is once they scored, that Destinee Martinez found a way to get on. Lauren Chamberlain stepped up and we answered immediately. And I think those are the important things that you, as a team, need to do when you’re at this big venue and trying to win it all. You have to know how to answer, and I think that was the thing that stuck out most to me is how we answered immediately.”