#WCWS Oklahoma City – College Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts was as unpredictable as the Oklahoma storm clouds looming over the start of game two of the best of three NCAA softball championship against Alabama, as the Tide came up big with bases loaded doubles by Jackie Traina and Amanda Locke to win 8-6 and force a third and final game Wednesday night at 7:00 pm to decide the NCAA champion for 2012.
Traina survived a furious five run 7th inning rally by Oklahoma for the win, allowing 6 runs and scattering 9 hits in the complete game win. The loss snapped Oklahoma’s 12-game winning streak.
Ricketts was uncharacteristically inconsistent. In the first she struck out the first two batters, but then lost her control, hitting one, walking another as the Tide loaded the bases, only to come away empty handed. She was not so fortunate from there.
In the bottom of the first, the Sooners began playing as if any run could be the difference. Lead-off hitter Georgia Casey singled sharply to center, was moved over by two-hole hitter Destinee Martinez, and scored one out later when team captain Jessica Shults, who missed the tourney a year ago while battling the effects of colitis, continued her spirited effort with a soft liner that dropped into center field, scoring Casey for the 1-0 lead.
Alabama played little ball in the second before their bats came up big. After the lead-off batter reached on the third error of the WCWS for OU third baseman Javen Henson, a sacrifice moved her into scoring position. Ricketts hit the next batter before striking out Kayley Braud. A passed ball moved the runner over. The Tide’s top hitter Jennifer Fenton hit a high bouncer to the left side. Shortstop Jessica Vest’s attempt to get the runner at third proved calamitous, and Alabama scored to tie the game at 1-1. Fenton stole second and Ricketts hit Kaila Hunt to load the bases for Alabama cleanup hitter Jackie Traina, who belted a double off the left-center field wall to clear the bases and give the Tide a 4-1 lead. Though all four runs were unearned, Ricketts had not allowed four runs in a start since April 14th.
The Sooners allowed four or more runs only three times all season entering the game.
Coming into the game, Alabama had lost two in a row only once this season.
A sloppy 4th provided insurance for Alabama. Ricketts hit Braud with a pitch on the foot, the first time in her career she hit five batters in a game. After catcher Jessica Shults couldn’t handle a high fastball allowing a passed ball to move two in scoring position. Kaila Hunt’s sacrifice fly to right scored Bama’s fifth run and chased Ricketts in favor of Michelle Gascoigne. It was only the second time in 10 post-season starts this season that Ricketts failed to go the distance.
Gascoigne couldn’t stop the Tide roll. After getting the second out on a nice pickle at third, she walked the next two hitters to load the bases for senior Amanda Locke, who doubled off the left center field wall to clear the bases and give Alabama an 8-1 lead. Alabama is 35-0 when scoring six or more runs this season.
Oklahoma had allowed a total of five runs in the first four games of the WCWS and allowed as many as eight runs only once this season, in a 12-5 loss to Texas on May 6th.
Ricketts was tagged with the loss to fall to 37-8 (3.1IP, 3H, 2ER,5K, 5HBP).
Once again, Oklahoma struggled to maximize scoring opportunities, leaving 9 runners on base. They have stranded 41 runners in five WCWS contests.
Destinee Martinez extended her hitting streak to 16 games with a single in the 5th. Ricketts, who stayed in the game as designated player after her pitching assignment was done, walked with two outs. But Jessica Shults, who leads the WCWS in RBI, popped to left to end the threat.
The Sooners threatened again in the sixth after a pair of Alabama errors. OU had two in scoring position, but Traina struck out the next two batters to end the frame.
The Sooners made it interesting for the fans who remained when Martinez tripled to deep right to lead off the seventh. Freshman All-American Lauren Chamberlain singled through the ole to,left to bring home Martinez and make score 8-2. Ricketts bounced a single over third and Jessica Shults crushed a three-run home run to right that brought what remained of the crowd of 8,385 to their feet, cutting Alabama’s lead to 8-5. After Norris struck out, Brianna Turang tripled into the left field corner and scored on an infield out to cap the 8-6 scoring.
This year’s WCWS has shattered all previous attendance records. Through eight sessions of this year’s WCWS, the total attendance is 69,156 — an event record. The previous mark of 67,631 was set last year in a total of nine sessions.