By CORBIN HOSLER
NORMAN — Seated next to each other in the postgame press conference, teammates Keilani Ricketts and Shelby Pendley both laughed softly after complimenting the other on their impressive performance on Saturday, their excitement showing through what is usually a stoic demeanor. Both had plenty of reason to be happy.
The Sooners are going to the World Series.
Oklahoma advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the second year in a row and eighth time in program history with an 8-0, five-inning run-rule victory over Texas A&M.
And it was Pendley and Ricketts that led them there Saturday. After going hitless on Friday, Pendley launched a pair of deep home runs, while Ricketts recorded the shutout while adding a pair of RBIs of her own.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Pendley, who will play in her first Women’s College World Series after transferring to OU this year. “It’s been an amazing season with this new team.”
Pendley has been a big part of that. The sophomore third baseman has keyed the Sooners’ lineup from three-hole, providing a surge of power batting before Ricketts. On Saturday, she belted both a drop ball and a rise ball from A&M pitcher Mel Dumezich out of the park, adding an RBI walk later to record the game’s first five RBIs.
“I struggled yesterday and came in today with a different approach and a different mindset,” she said. “Yesterday I was swinging at a lot of pitches in the dirt and just wasn’t confident in my swing.”
While Pendley was dominating at the plate, Ricketts did the same in the circle for top-seeded OU (52-4). The senior struck out seven batters in five innings and allowed just three hits. She also added a pair of RBIs at the plate before shutting down Texas A&M (42-18) the rest of the way.
Not that she called any attention to her dominant super regional performance, in which she struck out 20 batters and gave up just two runs. Instead, Ricketts called attention to Pendley’s performance, leading to the humorous exchange between the two.
“I love watching her play because she goes 0-for one day and ends up having two home runs the next,” Ricketts said of Pendley. “We knew that this was going to be a tough series and to be able to win the way we did it gives us a lot of confidence.”
Ricketts described advancing to the World Series as just one more goal met for the Sooners. Now the ultimate goal of a national championship after coming up one game short a year ago is within reach for OU, and the Sooners will take the next step toward that when they open World Series play on Thursday in Oklahoma City.
“I’m just extremely proud of this team,” coach Patty Gasso said. “They gave us another chance to fight for a national championship. Being one of the final eight is quite an accomplishment. Texas A&M was a good test for us and they made us better. They made Keilani step up and be on her game, and she did a really great job answering.”