Oklahoma Wins Opener of NCAA Championship Series

Oklahoma Softball's Keilani Ricketts

Oklahoma Wins Opener of NCAA Championship Series

OKLAHOMA CITY- Although it  stranded 12 base runners, the University of Oklahoma still  found a way to win  the opening game of  the NCAA Championship Series of the WCWS Monday evening at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, beating Alabama, 4-1 before 8,197 people. If OU wins the second game Tuesday, it will capture its second NCAA softball championship after winning its first in 2000. The Sooners are now 54-8 and have won 12 consecutive games, including nine in the postseason. The win ended Alabama’s 12 game win streak and put the Crimson Tide in a must win situation Tuesday evening. Alabama is now 58-8.

OU stranded eight of its 12 runners in the first three innings before Alabama broke through to take a 1-0 in the fourth inning against OU left-hander Keilani Ricketts. Losing pitcher Jackie Traina singled to right center to open the inning before Ricketts advanced her by hitting Cassie Reilly-Boccia with a pitch. Traina advanced to third on a wild pitch by Ricketts and scored on a sacrifice fly by catcher Kendall Dawson. It was only her 12th RBI of the season.

Now behind, the Sooners, accepted the challenge and scored a pair of runs in the fifth and sixth innings. OU took a 2-1 lead on a sacrifice fly by catcher Jessica Shults, which scored  Laura Chamberlain who had walked to open  the inning. Ricketts then doubled to left center with Chamberlain beating the throw at third from the outfield, and setting the stage for Shults’ sacrifice to center field, which was her third of the season. Katie Norris followed Shultz with a single but was out on a fielder’s choice by Brianna Turang that scored pinch runner Ali Vandever.

Taking a 2-1 lead into the sixth, OU scored two more runs to increase its advantage to three. Destinee Martinez, who ran her consecutive hit streak to five before flying out in the fourth, got aboard on an error by the Alabama second baseman.  Traina then fanned Chamberlain for the first out, but Ricketts’ liner back at Traina tore the glove off her hand with the ball going to second baseman Danae Hays, who couldn’t make the play and was charged with another error. Ricketts stole second before Shults singled to left center scoring Martinez and advancing Ricketts to third with Katie Norris’ perfect squeeze bunt scoring Ricketts with the fourth and final run.

Traina lost only for the third time this season after 40 wins and allowed 11 hits while striking out six and walking four. Ricketts, meanwhile, increased her record to 37-7 and walked one and fanned 12, the 26th time this season she has fanned 10 or more batters in a game. She has 10 or more strikeouts in all of her four wins in the WCWS and has fanned 101 batters in 59 innings in the postseason. She allowed Alabama only five hits in pitching her 33rd complete game.

Alabama stranded eight runners, and after scoring, left a runner on in the fifth and two runners on in the sixth as Ricketts put Alabama down in order in the seventh inning. Traina allowed 11 hits, the second most this season. “I knew they’re a great ball club,” said Traina. “I just wasn’t putting it where I needed to put it. Tomorrow’s a new day. I’ve just got to regroup, start over, flush it.”

OU coach Patty Gasso said,”This team is just so confident right now. They just feel it and it’s a pleasure to be around them because I have never been so calm and confident and cool thinking straight in such a big arena, because of them.”