Norman Regional Saturday Results

Oklahoma, Arkansas Advance to NCAA Softball Norman Regional Final

After routing Marist 17-0 in Friday’s opening game of the NCAA Softball Regional, the Oklahoma Sooners knew the Arkansas Razorbacks would be a much tougher opponent, considering Arkansas plays in one of the premier softball conferences in the country, the SEC. The Razorbacks indeed were a better opponent and in fact had pulled to within a run of the Sooners in the sixth. But as happened time and time again, OU generates the offense it needs to pull away from an opponent for a comfortable win.

On a sun-kissed Saturday, OU scored four times in the bottom of the sixth after Arkansas had closed the deficit to one, 6-5, to remain unbeaten in the NCAA Regional with a 10-5 win. The win increased OU’s overall record to 49-4 while Arkansas is now 35-19 and 1-1 in the Regional. The win improved OU's record to 29-0 when scoring in the opening inning and 45-0 when scoring first. The win advances the Sooners to Sunday’s regional final with Saturday’s two remaining games to determine their opponent.

Friday’s losers, Fordham and Marist, played following the OU-Arkansas game at 3 p.m. with Fordham prevailing, 5-3. Marist completed the year 36-22 and had one more hit, 10-9, than the Rams. Emily Osterhaus (14-11) was the losing hurler with Michelle Dauman (18-8) getting the win. Arkansas and Fordham played Saturday evening with Arkansas winning 5-2 to earn another shot at the No. 1 ranked Sooners Sunday (1 p.m.). Fordham finished the year 35-23.

On Saturday, OU standout left-hander Keilani Ricketts didn’t have one of her memorable games, allowing eight hits, five runs (all earned), while walking  two and striking out four in getting her 29th win of the season against only one loss. Michelle Gascoigne relieved Ricketts and hurled the remainder of the game.  Ricketts, who had allowed only six homers this season, gave up a pair of round-trippers for the first time this season. The hits and runs she allowed equaled her season highs.  Arkansas trailed 6-1 before scoring four runs in the  sixth with Andrea Sullivan hitting a two-run pinch-homer and Clarisa Navarro adding a two-run single, chasing Ricketts. With two on and the go-ahead run on second base, Gascogine struck out Chole Oprzedek on just three pitches.

“It was a hard-fought game by us, and it was quite a clutch performance by us as well," Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. "These athletes gave their all. They know the importance of this game and what it does for you tomorrow. We can stay here all day and have to play again or go home and get off our feet and rest, then come back tomorrow and play one. We have the safety net, but we don't want it or need it. We want to get it done. We put ourselves in a nice position moving forward, but everybody fought today. It was a tough battle. We give credit to Arkansas who came ready to play; we were attacking at the plate and ready to make good plays, but they were ready just as well. It was a good battle between two good teams."

After stopping the Arkansas rally, the Sooners turned right away and scored four times in the bottom half of the inning to have some breathing room before entering the top of the seventh. Junior Javen Henson, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the inning, pulled a single through the left side with two away. Junior Destinee Martinez kept things going with a single of her own before sophomore Callie Parsons doubled to left center to score Henson. Senior Brianna Turang walked to fill the bases for Chamberlain. Working her way into a hitter's count at 2-1, Chamberlain smashed a double over the head of center fielder Stephanie Canfield to clear the bases and put OU ahead 10-5. It marked the second straight game for Chamberlain with five runs batted in. "That's been our namesake throughout the season, just finding ways to keep the rally alive," Gasso said. "In the end with two outs, Javen (Henson) came up off the bench big time for us, and then our seven, eight and nine kept doing their job whether it's base on balls or base-hits. They found ways to get on. Then Lauren was back on the plate and brought the game up again, so it was just a tag-team effort throughout."

Arkansas looked like it was going to start another threat in the seventh, putting the first two runners on base. However, second baseman Georgia Casey fielded a grounder from Sierra Bronkey, tagged Canfield and then flipped to Chamberlain to turn the double play. Sophomore Shelby Pendley then caught a line drive at third base to end the game. “I am just really proud of our team today,” said Arkansas head coach Mike Larabee. “ They showed a lot of heart, which they have been all year long. They fought back and got within one run and obviously we are a little disappointed when we have a great comeback like that, especially when we have those two outs and then give up those four runs. Other than that, I am really proud.”

In the bottom of the first, the Sooners took advantage of a Razorbacks' error to take a 2-0 lead. Chamberlain led off with a pop-up to first base that Devon Wallace appeared to be camped under. However, Bronkey, playing second base, interfered with Wallace to allow Chamberlain to reach second safely. A sacrifice bunt from sophomore Georgia Casey moved Chamberlain to third, while Pendley was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners. Ricketts then fought through an 11-pitch at-bat, including five foul balls with two strikes, before muscling a pitch into shallow center field to score Chamberlain. With the run, Chamberlain set the school and Big 12 record with her 72nd of the season.

Two batters later, with runners on first and second, junior Brittany Williams lifted a single to the gap in left center field to plate Pendley and stake the Sooners to a 2-0 lead. Williams padded the Sooners' lead in the third inning when she hit a two-out, solo home run to the bleachers in right center field. It was her seventh of the season and 25th of her career. Arkansas got a run back in the fourth when Amanda Geile hit a solo home run to center field, but Oklahoma got it back in the bottom of the frame on a bases-loaded walk by Ricketts to make it 4-1. The lead grew to 6-1 in the fifth inning when Chamberlain pulled a single through the left side with the bases loaded. It was her second straight game in the Regional with five runs batted in.