Oklahoma and Tennessee Advance to WCWS Championship Series

Oklahoma Pitcher Keilani Ricketts

Oklahoma and Tennessee Advance to WCWS Championship Series Monday Night


For the second year in a row, Oklahoma’s softball team will play for the NCAA softball championship after turning back a determined University of Washington team, 6-2 Sunday evening at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. And for the second year in a row, OU will play an SEC team in the best-of-three championship series which will begin Monday evening at 7 (CT).  Although some Sooner fans had hoped OU would have a rematch with Alabama, which beat the Sooners last year, Oklahoma will play Tennessee Monday to decide college softball’s Division One champion for 2013.  The two teams have met three times in the past with the Lady Vols victorious in all three games.

Tennessee, which earned a berth in the WCWS by beating defending national champion Alabama in the Super Regional, advanced to Monday’s championship series with a 2-1 win over Texas with the difference a bases-loaded walk to freshman pinch hitter Lexi Overstreet in the sixth inning. It was one of eight walks losing pitcher Blaire Luna gave up against Tennessee after walking five earlier in the day in beating and eliminating Florida, 3-0. Luna hurled a total of 288 pitches in the two games. “I think I could have gone a little bit longer,” said Luna. “The only thing that was really bothering me was my forearm. (It) was just kind of tightening up and there was a little blood blister on my finger.”

Tennessee took an early lead against Texas on an opposite-field homer by left-handed hitter Lauren Gibson with two out in the first inning. Gibson also scored the second and deciding run when Overstreet walked with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. It was Gibson’s 19th homer of the season. The Longhorns got a runner in scoring position the first three innings against the Vols but were unable to bring across a run until the seventh inning when Lindsey Stephens homered to right center field leading off the inning. Texas finished 51-10, the second most number of wins in school history. “It's tough to be done with our season a little bit earlier than what we would have liked,” Longhorns coach Connie Clark said. “But I'm very proud of this group. I thought they had an exceptional year.”

Earlier Sunday, Washington scored all its runs in the sixth inning in beating Michigan 4-1 before 8,712 to advance to face Oklahoma later Sunday night.  With two runners on in the sixth, an infield single by UW's Kimberlee Souza ricocheted off pitcher Sara Driesenga’s leg and turned the tide of a game that Michigan was leading 1-0. Souza's scorcher bounced off Driesenga and went into shallow left field. One run came around to score, followed by a second on a Michigan throwing error. The Huskies scored twice more on two more hits in the frame to take a 4-1 lead. Until that point, Driesenga had put together a stretch of 13 straight scoreless innings in the WCWS. The right-hander pitched her seventh complete game of the NCAA tournament and third straight in the WCWS. She struck out three, walked two and yielded seven hits. She finished the season with a 31-9 record. Until the four-run sixth, Michigan led 1-0 after scoring a run in the fifth inning  when  Sierra Lawrence reached base on a fielder’s choice, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Jaclyn Crummey’s RBI single.  Crummey led Michigan (51-13) with two hits in three at-bats.

Washington starter and winning pitcher Bryana Walker allowed four hits, striking out seven and walking three as the Huskies improved to 45-10. Walker, who hadn’t pitched since Thursday, said “when I found out I was starting I was excited. I knew we played them in March and the game didn’t go how we wanted it to. Thursday’s game I was definitely nervous; first game of the World Series and my first time here. So I felt a bit more confident being on the field, being in the pitching circle. I just knew my team needed me to step up and be better than I was on Thursday, just working with Shawna (Wright) and staying strong the entire game.”

Washington started Kaitlin Inglesby against Oklahoma Sunday evening and the Sooners again went scoreless the first two innings before scoring three times in the third inning.  The third inning started when senior Brianna Turang used a hard slap to drive the ball over leftfielder Whitney Jones' head and then sped around the bases for her first triple of the season. Washington starter, Inglesby (23-9), then uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop allowing Turang to score. Inglesby allowed five earned runs on eight hits and struck out six.

After Turang showed off the team's speed, sophomore Lauren Chamberlain exhibited the team's power. She turned on a 2-0 pitch and crushed a solo home run to deep left field, her 29th of the season and 59th of her career, leaving her only 31 behind the national record of 90 with two more seasons remaining. It was Chamberlain’s 82nd RBI this year, breaking a tie she shared with Samantha Ricketts (2007) for the most in a season in the Big 12 and school history. The power show continued two batters later when Ricketts hit a moon-shot to the bleachers in right center field. It was her 14th homer of the year and 49th of her career, breaking a tie with her sister Samantha for fourth in OU history and seventh in conference history. Ricketts collected her 34th win in 35 games, allowing three hits with 12 strikeouts.

Oklahoma added to its lead with another run in the fourth.  Senior Jessica Shults led off with a single to shortstop before being replaced on the bases by sophomore Erica Sampson. A sacrifice bunt moved Sampson to second before sophomore Callie Parsons walked. A groundout by Turang moved the runners up to second and third, and Chamberlain was intentionally walked to fill the bases.  Facing a full count, sophomore Georgia Casey drew the bases-loaded walk to bring home a run and make it 4-0. Washington cut the lead in half in the fifth inning.  Kylee Lahners broke up Ricketts' no-hitter with a solo home run to center field to lead off the inning and pinch runner Mercedes Wetmore scored on a throwing error by sophomore third baseman Shelby Pendley.

Oklahoma got one of those runs back, though, in the sixth inning. With two outs, Turang reached safely on an error by second baseman Kelli Seguro. Chamberlain then drew a walk to push Turang to second and Casey picked up her second RBI of the game as she hit a blooper to left center field. An insurance run came in the top of the seventh.  After Ricketts drew a walk, junior Brittany Williams hit a slow roller up the first base line. Standing behind the bag, Hooch Fagaly was in position to make the play, but the ball hit the base and kicked away allowing Williams to reach safely. Shults put down her first sacrifice bunt of the season to put the runners into scoring position before Destinee Martinez grounded out to second and Ricketts scored.

Washington finished 45-17 on the year and had the best finish out of all the Pac-12 schools going 2-2 in the WCWS to tie for third with Texas. Oklahoma improved its record to 55-4 with the win and has outscored the opposition 82-12 in the postseason, extending their win streak to 11 games overall since losing to Kansas May 5th. “I am incredibly proud of this team,” said OU coach Patty Gasso. “Words can’t express how excited we are to be here (championship series). Although our actions may not look like it, this is a very focused and determined team that had one goal and that is to get back and have a chance to win a national championship. It is difficult to do. It’s been difficult this entire year. But the pride I have in this team is about their perseverance and the fact they are not shaken by anything. They’ve gone through some things, ups and downs and here we are. They’re just playing it like they do every game all the time. This is with a really level keel that they have. It’s just really been impressive. They impress me every time they go out on the field, just their calmness and their confidence.”