#WCWS (Oklahoma City) Two teams on eleven game winning streaks collided in the opening game of the Women’s College World Series. Both took chances on the base paths in an attempt to get to the opposition’s All-American pitcher, and it was 4th ranked Oklahoma’s two run counter punch in the fifth that provided the go ahead run in their 4-1 victory over second ranked Alabama. Game two of the best of three series is scheduled for 7:00 pm central time Tuesday night as Oklahoma seeks its second NCAA softball title.
Both teams squandered scoring opportunities until exchanging sacrifice flies in the bottom of the 4th and top of the fifth, but OU extended their rally against Tide starter Jackie Traina in the fifth on an RBI fielders choice by Brianna Turang to give OU the 2-1 lead.
That was all Keilani Ricketts needed. The 6-foot-two-inch righthander from San Jose, California completed her 33rd game of the season to improve to 37-7 (7 IP, 5 H, 12 Ks) for Oklahoma’s 12th straight win. Traina (7 IP, 11 H, 6 Ks) is 40-3. Alabama won their first 26 games this year and has not lost two games in a row all season.
OU put runners on base in each of the first six innings. threatened in the first against the Alabama right-hander Traina, as Destinee Martinez and Lauren Chamberlain hit back to back singles to put runners on first and second with one out. But NCAA Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts flew out to deep left field and Jessica Shults popped to second to end the frame.
The Sooners threatened again with back to back singles by Katie Norris and Brianna Turang to start the second. After Erica Sampson’s sacrifice moved both runners into scoring position, the Tide’s sophomore All-American Traina turned up the heat, fanning Javen Henson and Georgia Casey to end the inning, the latter going down on a 70 miles per hour fastball.
Again, OU made noise in the third, as Destinee Martinez placed a single to left center. After Lauren Chamberlain flared out to first, Ricketts hits soft liner to second and Jessica Shults grounded to first to end the inning.
OU’s defense to them in and out of trouble in the third. After Ricketts throwing error enabled Jaz Lunceford to reach first, lead off hitter Kayla Braud singled through the hole in right. Lunsford tried to take third, but was gunned down on a perfect throw by right fielder Erica Sampson. Jennifer Fenton beat out a high chopper over the mound for an infield single, it Ricketts struck out Kaila Hunt on an 0-2 change-up to end the threat.
In the top of the fourth, Turang beat out a plate bouncer for an infield hit but was thrown out trying to steal second. After Erica Sampson walked, Javen Henson lined a double over the left fielder’s head. But Kayla Braud played the carom perfectly, and Sooners head coach Patty Gasso held the runner at third. Struggling lead-off hitter Georgia Casey, just 1-10 in the WCWS games at that point, worked Traina for a walk to load the bases for hot-hitting Destinee Martinez, who drove a sharp fly to right center caught by Fenton to end the inning.
Traina, the first pitcher in Crimson Tide history to record 40 wins in a season, and Ricketts, a member of Team USA and the nation’s top college player this season, locked in a pitchers duel in front of crowd of 8,197 fans, which extended the event’s daily attendance mark for a fifth straight session.
In the bottom of the 4th, Traina singled past a diving Henson at third and Cassie Reilly-Boccia followed with a walk, as Ricketts found herself in trouble with two on and none out. After Ricketts’ first pitch to Amanda Locke handcuffed catcher Jessica Shults for a wild pitch, the Tide had two runners in scoring position. Locke chased an off-speed in the dirt for the first out before Kendall Dawson’s sacrifice fly to deep right scored the game’s first run.
The Sooners, who pride themselves with answering adversity, bounced back in the top of the fifth. All-American Lauren Chamberlain walked to start the inning and Ricketts followed with a line drive that glanced off the glove of a leaping Hunt at short. The speedy Chamberlain beat center fielder Fenton’s throw to third and Ricketts took second on the throw. Team Captain Jessica Shults then delivered a sacrifice fly to deep center that easily scored Chamberlain and the game was tied at 1-1. Alabama came into the game 42-2 when scoring first this season.
After Norris singled to put runners on the corners, Turang’s hard hit grounder was stopped byBama’s diving second baseman, who had only the force play at second to get the second out, allowing pinch runner Ali Vandever to score the go ahead run, 2-1.
Alabama’s defense wobbled behind Traina in the sixth. After two errors and a stolen base put runners on second and third, Shults went the other way to drive in Martinez with an insurance run to make it 3-1. The Sooners added another as normally big-hitting Norris, who homered on Sunday, executed a perfect squeeze to plate OU’s 4th run.
With a one run lead, Ricketts, who has not lost as a starting pitcher since April 20th, worked out of trouble in the 6th when she coaxed a grounder to short that went through the shortstop’s legs. With two on and two out, Ricketts struck out pinch hitter Jackey Branham to end the inning. It was the 26th time Ricketts has whiffed at least ten batters in a game this season.