Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

June 1, 2012

Sooners beat South Florida in WCWS opener

OU rallies from 1-0 hole to advances to winners bracket game against California.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Having already played for her country last summer, calling what Keilani Ricketts is going through “a coming out party” may sound contrived.

On the other hand, behind her windmilling left arm and smoking hot bat, the just-named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, as though on cue, was yet again the story as the Sooners continued their perfect postseason run Thursday with a 5-1 victory over South Florida on the first day of the Women’s College World Series.

OU is 51-8 overall and 6-0 since NCAA regional play began.

As a result, the Sooners are sitting pretty in the WCWS winner’s bracket for the first time since 2004.

“I was just confident in my pitches on both sides of the plate,” Ricketts said, “and just had to keep sticking with the game plan, no matter what.”

Ricketts allowed just three hits, struck out 11 and walked only one. The only baserunner the Bulls pushed across reached on an error, leaving Tulsa — a 7-1 regional loser to OU back on May 19 — as the last opponent to tag the Sooner pitcher with an earned run.

“She was changing speeds, and she’s a good pitcher, and she’s on the USA team for a reason,” said USF’s Jessica Mouse, the only Bull to reach base twice.

Ricketts did it in the circle and the batter’s box, lashing a sixth-inning, run-scoring triple only a stiff wind kept from clearing the left-center field wall. Bringing home Lauren Chamberlain, who’d reached with a one-out double. It marked the first of OU’s three, sixth-inning runs that put the game away.

OU was clinging to a 2-1 lead coming into the frame thanks to a mammoth fourth-inning home run from Chamberlain. A two-run shot — the Sooner freshman hit it into the teeth of the wind to straightaway center field.

“(I) tried to keep the same approach of just getting a good pitch and putting a good swing on it,” Chamberlain said. “So, the second time around, I didn’t want to get cheated.”

Through three innings, USF starter Sara Nevins had a no-hitter going. Though she’d walked two, she’d faced just one over the minimum number of Sooners. Going through the order a second time, however, proved to be a different assignment.

Destinee Martinez led off with OU’s first hit, a single to left field. Next up was Chamberlain, who mashed the third pitch she saw.

As coincidence would have it, OU’s sixth inning came together as the meat of the Sooner order got to see Nevins a third time, after she had re-entered the game for reliever Lindsey Richardson.

“It’s almost like you’re going through the top two to four batters on the New York Yankees … Who do you pitch around?” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “I mean, you walk Chamberlain to get to Ricketts? You walk Ricketts to get to (Jessica) Shults?”

There are no easy answers.

“We had a game plan,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “You hear that word used a lot up here. We had a strategy for every pitcher they were going to bring out.”

Not immediately, but it clearly worked. Also, once again, the Sooners had no problems in the circle.

“We just have to stick with that game plan,” Ricketts said.

Whatever it is.

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