Alabama Evens WCWS Championship Series

 Alabama Evens WCWS Championship Series

OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma pitcher Keilani Ricketts has hurled some outstanding games for the Sooners this season. Tuesday night wasn’t one of them, however. Ricketts wasn’t herself and neither were her teammates as OU lost to Alabama 8-6 in the second game of the NCAA Championship Series to even the series at a game apiece.

“We didn’t play well, we didn’t deserve it, but we’ve got another shot, “said OU Head Coach Patty Gasso.  “We have tomorrow, which is wonderful.”

 The third and final game will be played Wednesday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium (7 p.m. CT) with the winner earning the NCAA national champion for 2012.  OU, 59-8, is hoping to win its second national title since 2000 while Alabama is seeking to become the first SEC team to win the NCAA softball championship.

 If OU succeeds, it will need Ricketts back to being the dominating pitcher she was on Monday when she won 4-1 over Alabama and is now 37-8 after suffering her first loss in the postseason and ending OU’s 12 game winning streak. The game Keilani pitched Tuesday night was uncharacteristic of her as she had control problems, hitting five batters while striking out five and walking one. Ricketts five hit batters in one game is a new WCWS record, the old record was four by Kristin Thorson of California against OU (2004). Before Monday, Ricketts had averaged one hit batter per 11 innings. In 10.1 innings against Alabama, she hit seven batters. Ricketts wasn’t tired or fatigued; she just wasn’t on top of her game and had a bad night.

 OU out-hit Alabama 9-4, but Alabama got more mileage out of their hits, including a three-run double by winning pitcher Jackie Traina in a four-run second inning and a three-run double by Amanda Locke in a four-run fourth inning. The second four-run inning did in OU, they were able to rally for five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning on five hits, including a three-run homer by catcher Jessica Shults (No.20) over the right field fence, an RBI single by Laura Chamberlain and a ground out by Erica Sampson to bring home another run. But it was too little too late as Traina held off the Sooners to collect her 41st win of the season against only three losses. The 5-11 sophomore allowed all six runs, walked three and fanned eight in going the distance for her 36th complete game.

 Ricketts left after Kaila Hunt’s sacrifice fly RBI, making it 5-0 and Michelle Gascoigne replaced her. “I could see Keilani was laboring a little bit,” said Gasso. “I wanted to get her out and just get rested, get her mind right.” Gascoigne finished the game going 3.2 innings allowing two runs on one hit while fanning four and walking three.

 Alabama, which lost Monday 4-1, was a different team Tuesday and needed to be because it was a must win situation after  OU took an early 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Shults in the bottom of the first inning. “We knew coming in there they were really going to bring their best,” said Gasso. “They really were attacking. At the same time this was a very uncharacteristic game for us.” 

 Each team made two errors and OU third baseman  Javen Henson had both of hers in the four-run fourth inning.  She opened the inning by not being able to handle a routine grounder by Locke, then later she dropped a throw from shortstop Jessica Vest trying to get the third out on a fielder’s choice.

 This will be just the third time since 2005 when the NCAA went to the three-game championship series that there will be a third game. In each of the past two, the team that lost game two also lost game three.

 “We’re coming locked in and ready to fight,” said Gasso.  “That was the message (in the seventh inning). I still trust this team with everything I have. It’s hard to beat us twice and we know that.”