#WCWS Oklahoma City – A nearly three hour rain delay was no problem for the Alabama Crimson Tide and their energetic fans. Unfortunately for OU, a drizzly WCWS finale will be remembered as the championship that slipped away.
Alabama took advantage of a rain-rattled junior lefthander Keilani Ricketts for a four run fourth inning that erased a 3-0 Oklahoma lead and changed the tide of the 2012 NCAA Women’s College World Series, claimed by Alabama 5-3. It is the first softball title in Crimson Tide history.
The 2012 collegiate softball Player of the Year, Oklahoma pitcher Keilani Ricketts came out throwing strikes and looked unhittable for three innings, one day after her wildness (a WCWS record 5 hit batters) cost her dearly in an 8-6 loss to Alabama. In the first, she threw thirteen pitches, eleven for strikes, to sit down the side for the Tide.
Ricketts’ big bat also ignited the crowd. She crushed a 1-0 pitch from Bama sophomore Jckie Traina for her 17th home run of the season and a 1-0 Oklahoma lead.
After lead-off hitter Javon Henson singled to start the third, a fielders choice and a grounder to the mound brought all-American slugger Lauren Chamberlain to the plate. With the left fielder playing Chamberlain almost on the warning track, the freshman firstbaseman showed why – ripping a line drive homer ten rows up in left to give OU a 3-0 lead. It was Chamberlain’s 29th homer, extending her school record for a single season. She would add her 30th in the seventh. Oklahoma led the nation in home runs this season with 102 as a team.
A pair of infield hits in the third didn’t faze Ricketts, whose defense turned in a couple of nice defensive stops on infield grounders, including the unassisted out at third by Henson to end the frame.
A light rain began to fall again in the fourth, and OU coach Patty Gasso apparently had her eye on the ball. In the first three innings, Ricketts had not gone to a single three ball count, but a slick ball changed things. Kalia Hunt worked deep in the count and delivered a sharp single to left to open the inning; it was Bama’s first hard hit ball of the game.
Clearly uncomfortable with her grip, Ricketts bounced a pitch to the plate that catcher Jessica Shults couldn’t corral, and the wild pitch moved Hunt to scoring position for the Tide’s cleanup hitter, Jackie Traina. But Traina fouled out to right and Reilly-Boccia struck out before a wild pitch moved the runner to third and Ricketts walked her first batter of the game to put runners on the corners with two out for Amanda Locke. Again the ball seemed to get away from Ricketts, scoring Hunt and bringing out OU head coach Patty Gasso, who complained to NCAA officials about the wet softball. After the uprising crew and NCAA officials gathered, a rain delay was called.
While Tide players and coaches remained on the field in front of their dugout, even joining in cheers with their fans, OU players and coaches were out of sight in the dugout waiting out the rain.
After a 14-minute delay, the crew returned and Oklahoma returned to the field with Ricketts facing the tying run at the plate and two outs. Amanda Locke worked the count full before bouncing a single to left that scored Kendall Dawson to trim the Sooner lead to 3-2.
Courtney Conley again worked a full count and drive a line shot to center that Destinee Martinez initially came in on but eventually sailed ver her head for a run scoring double that tied the game at three.
What appeared to be the final out of the inning turned into a throwing error by shortstop Jessica Vest, allowing Coney to score from second and the Tide to take a 4-3 lead. Ricketts was charged with four wild pitches.
The rain had passed, but damage was done. Three innings of championship momentum swung from Oklahoma to Alabama heading to the top of the fifth.
Oklahoma was a breadth away from retaking the lead. After Chamberlain walked and Ricketts was hit with a pitch, Shults drove a deep fly to right that Lunceford caught near the track for the third out.
The boisterous Tide and their fans willed another run across in the bottom half. A bunt single by Jennifer Fenton, passed ball and infield out set the stage for the cleanup hitter Traina, who singled sharply to right to plate Fenton for a 5-3 lead.
With a two run lead, Traina seemed to be pitching with renewed confidence, striking out Katie Norris on three pitches to open the sixth before Georgia Casey’s solid single to right. But Sampson popped to short and Henson struck out to set the stage for a historic seventh.
Oklahoma was fired up in the top of the seventh after Martinez was called out for runners interference for the second out. Lauren Chamberlain followed with a crushing home run to right centerfield to narrow the margin to 5-4 and briefly raise the spirits of the Oklahoma fans.
But Keilani Ricketts was called out on strikes to end the game, and Alabama’s players mobbed their sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina in the circle.
Traina finished with an NCAA best 42-3 record; Ricketts (37-9) capped her All-American campaign with 7 strikeouts to break her single season mark with 457 Ks.
Lauren Chamberlain, Destinee Martinez, Jessica Shults, Brianna Turang and Keilani Ricketts were named to the all-tourney team as we’re Alabama’s Kayla Braud, Jennifer Fenton and Amanda Locke while Jackie Traina was named the tourney Most Outstanding Player.