OU, Alabama pull off upsets in WCWS

Alabama College Softball

OU, Alabama pull off upsets in WCWS

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Women’s College World Series has its share of upsets and the first one came Friday as the Oklahoma Sooners, behind the spectacular pitching of Keilani Ricketts, stunned the top-seeded and No. 1 ranked California Bears, 3-0.

And the second upset came in Friday’s second game as Alabama nipped the defending national champion, the Arizona State Sun Devils, 2-1. The two games attracted a record crowd of 9,209, bettering the old record of 9,080 in session five of the 2010 WCWS.

The hard-throwing 6-foot-2 Ricketts recorded her second win of the WCWS, limiting the Golden Bears to only a pair of singles while she fanned 16 batters. She becomes the third pitcher in World Series history to fan 16 batters in a seven-inning game.  Monica Abbott, a former Tennessee star, did it twice in the 2007 World Series and former ULCA star Tracy Compton recorded 16 strikeouts in 1985. It also was the second time this season for Ricketts after reaching that total against UNLV on February 10 in Las Vegas.

“I think Keilani has gone to another level, just really knows how to get locked in like never before and not let things really affect her,” said OU Head Coach Patty Gasso. “And I’ve seen her really step up in clutch situations. And they had runners in scoring position and to find her way out of it. And she’s been doing that all year long, over and over, it’s almost like she likes the challenge. But seeing her become truly one of the best, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to watch.”

Oklahoma (51-8) advances to Sunday’s semifinals, where the Sooners will need to win once in order to advance to Monday’s NCAA Championship Series. The Golden Bears (57-6) fall to the loser’s bracket and will play next on Saturday against the Tennessee-Oregon winner.  The Golden Bears are now 20-21 all-time in the WCWS. The win was OU’s 10th in a row as the Sooners handed California ace Jolene Henderson only her third loss of the season. Henderson allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) while striking out six and walking four. She’s now 1-1 in this WCWS.

OU was the aggressor from the start and left on three runners in the first two innings before scoring its first run in the third, adding one in the fourth and another in the sixth on a solo homer by lead-off hitter Georgia Casey to left center. It was Casey’s 10th homer of the season and the 97th by the Sooners. Casey also scored OU’s first run when she walked to start the third inning. Destiny Martinez singled to advance her to second and Casey came home on Laura Chamberlain’s double to right center. It was Chamberlain’s 10th double of the season and her 74th RBI. She struck out the first time up against Henderson, but was ready the second time. “Yeah, my first at-bat wasn’t too pretty with her change-up, but my second at-bat, I didn’t want to get cheat by that same pitch, so I just went after it with a different approach.”

OU scored its second run in the fourth inning when Katie Norris was hit by a pitch and Javen Henson reached first on a fielding error by the third baseman, advancing pinch-runner Jessica Vest to second. Henderson got the next two batters to fly out before Ricketts walked with the based loaded. Casey’s homer leading off the sixth inning came on a 3-2 pitch and Casey was looking for either a change-up or a fast ball. “Well, I had two strikes on me so I was looking for both pitches because you can’t just hit on one when you have two strikes. So I was just looking to foul off anything that came hard and I was just waiting for the change.”

The 16th strikeouts by Ricketts marked the 24th time this season she had fanned 10 or more batters in a game. She’s now fanned 76 batters in 45 innings in the postseason and extended her streak of innings without an earned run to 40. It was only the third time this season that the Golden Bears had been shutout. They left six runners on base, once getting runners as far as second and once to third as Ricketts bore down each time to prevent them from scoring. She opened the game by striking out the first three batters and fanned eight of the first 11 batters she faced.

Jace Williams had one of the three California hits; a single in the second inning after Frani Echavarria walked to open the inning, but neither advanced as Ricketts got the next three batters in order, striking out two and getting one to line out to third. Asked what made Ricketts so difficult to handle, Wiliams said, “She throws the ball hard. And I mean she paints the corners. Her change-up was on. It was dropping off the table. And she really just-I mean, she came out and really threw a great ball game. She had, let’s see here, 16 strikeouts and two walks. Pretty big game there.” The other California hit was a single in the bottom of the seventh by Victoria Jones.

California coach Diane Ninemire praised the Sooners. “I just have to say that I have to give a lot of credit to the University of Oklahoma today. They had a great game. They came out hitting the ball, had great pitching from Keilani Ricketts. And we just did not play our best ball today. We did not hit the ball well. And defensively, I think I don’t even remember the last time I’ve seen this team make three errors.” It was the third time this season that the Golden Bears made three errors in a game (also against Oregon State on May 5 and Texas on March 15).

This was the fifth meeting between Cal and Oklahoma at the WCWS with Cal winning three of the last four. The only other WCWS victory for OU against the Golden Bears came in 2000, the year the Sooners went on to win the program’s lone NCAA Championship.

In Friday’s second game, senior Amanda Locke hit her 18th homer and pitcher Jackie Traina became the single-season record holder for Alabama (57-7) in edging defending champion Arizona State, 2-1.

Locke hit her game-winning homer with one-out to left center field off losing pitcher Dallas Escobedo (24-7) to break a 1-1 tie and advance the Crimson Tide to play on Sunday. Escobedo allowed seven hits, walking two and striking out nine. Traina held the Sun Devils scoreless for three innings before they took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Sam Parlich in the fourth inning before Alabama tied the game an inning later on Jennifer Fenton’s single to right field, scoring Courtney Conley who had beat out an infield single and advanced to second on Kayla Braud’s groundout. Traina limited ASU to three hits in winning her 39th game of the season against only two losses. She fanned 11 batters and walked five. The Sun Devils will play an elimination game Saturday against either South Florida or LSU.