Oklahoma wins Game One of the WCWS Championship Series

Oklahoma Pitcher Keilani Ricketts

Sooners Stun Tennessee 5-3 in 12 innings in Opener of Championship Series

The No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners rallied from a three-run deficit to stun the Tennessee Volunteers 5-3 in 12 innings in the first game of the NCAA Championship Series at the 32nd annual Women’s College World Series before 8,300 people Monday night at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Oklahoma improved to 55-4 in winning its 12th consecutive game overall and ninth in the postseason. It also was the first time OU had defeated Tennessee in four games. The Lady Vols are now 52-11 and 3-1 in the WCWS. Tennessee has finished runner-up, third three times and seventh in previous WCWS appearances.

Lauren Chamberlain, OU first baseman who is destined to become one of the greatest players in college softball history, hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 12th with Brianna Turang on base to break a 3-3 tie and send the Sooners into Tuesday’s second game (7 p.m.) of the championship series.  Oklahoma will be seeking another win to capture the school’s second NCAA softball championship. The first was in 2000. Turang had opened the bottom of the 12th with a chopped double over the Tennessee third baseman and just inside the foul line before Chamberlain unloaded on the first pitch from losing pitcher Ellen Renfore (19-5), sending the ball just inside the foul pole down the leftfield line for her 30th homer of the season and 60th of her career. Keilani Ricketts got the win going the distance, allowing five hits with six walks and 13 strikeouts. Renfore allowed 10 hits with three walks and 13 strikeouts.

Asked about her game-winning hit, Chamberlain said, “I knew Ellen had success with me in the past few at-bats before that. I was just trying to make an adjustment, clear my hands a little bit. I felt like I was missing the whole game, so I felt due. But at the same time, I’m so proud of my team. I can’t even talk about myself right now. I’m just so proud of my team.”  Oklahoma Coach Patty Gasso said, “I don't even know what to say, except I think that was the greatest game I've ever been a part of. I think both teams just battled and both pitchers were exceptional, defense, exceptional.  Pitchers were owning it.  You know, Tennessee put some things together, but the resiliency of this team and the fight, and them following instructions of just find your way on, don't try to be the big hero.  Just find your way on, find your way on, and here we go again from your 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, back to Lauren.  It was phenomenal how we ended up tying that game with just some clutch hits, and it all came in one inning, so sometimes that's all you need. I really don't even know what to say.  That was one of the most amazing comebacks I've ever seen.  I can't imagine.  I mean, it's nervous on the field, I can't imagine how people felt watching it.  But this is a team on a mission, and, man, I've never seen anything like it.”

Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said, “OK, that was a great fast pitch softball game between two great teams who played their hearts out.  The pitching performance out of both Keilani and Ellen was unbelievable.  Both of them just pitched phenomenal games.  I think there were only four hits total going into the ninth inning.  We just have to congratulate Oklahoma in a situation like this.  You've just got to congratulate them.  I just told our kids that this is not over yet.  In 2007 we won the opening game and lost the series, and we're still very much alive.  We're facing a very, very good opponent, but we're ready to move on to tomorrow.”

Tennessee (52-11) had taken a 3-0 lead against the Sooners on Jordan Shipman’s three-run homer in the top of the 11th before the Sooners rallied for three runs in the bottom of the 11th to tie the game.  In the 11th, Ricketts (35-1) hit a popup that turned into a wind-aided double as the ball bounced off Lauren Gibson’s glove at second base. Junior Brittany Williams then doubled into the gap in right center to drive home Ricketts and get the Sooners on the board.  Down to their final out, junior Destinee Martinez ripped a triple to deep center field on a 2-2 count to score sophomore Erica Sampson, who was running for Williams. That was followed by sophomore Callie Parsons, who doubled to left center on an 0-2 pitch to plate Martinez and set the stage for Chamberlain.

In the top of the eighth, Tennessee looked as though it may get the game’s first run. The Lady Vols put two runners on with just one out following an error, sacrifice bunt and four-pitch walk. Ricketts battled pinch-hitter Rainey Gaffin to a full count before finishing her off with a strikeout. The inning then closed when Raven Chavanne lined out to sophomore Jessica Vest at shortstop.  OU had a chance of their own in the ninth, loading the bases with one out. Senior Jessica Shults grounded to first and Melissa Brown fired home to get the force out before junior Destinee Martinez struck out to send the game to the 10th.

Both teams got runners into scoring position in the 10th, but Ricketts struck out Tory Lewis with two on to end the top of the frame and Renfroe got sophomore Georgia Casey to pop out to first base with senior Brianna Turang on second.  Oklahoma had the game’s first scoring chance in the third inning when senior Brianna Turang reached on a fielder’s choice and Chamberlain laced a double into the gap in left center to extend her hit-streak to a career-best 15 games. However, a pop out to third base in foul territory kept the game scoreless. The Sooners put another pair of runners on in the fourth when Ricketts put down a bunt single and then stole second base, her ninth swipe in nine attempts this year. Senior Jessica Shults then worked the count to 3-1 before Tennessee issued the intentional walk. Junior Destinee Martinez followed with a sharp liner but Chavanne made a great diving stab at third base to catch the final out of the inning.

Tennessee got its first base runner of the game in the fifth inning when Madison Shipman drew a four-pitch walk to start the inning, but she was quickly erased when Shults threw down to sophomore Georgia Casey at first base to pick her off. Two more walks gave the Lady Vols their first scoring threat of the game, but Ricketts got Melissa Brown to hit into a 1-4-3 double play to keep the game knotted at 0-0.