OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Well it appears top-ranked and top-seeded Oklahoma is right where they’re supposed to be, returning to the WCWS Championship Series after eliminating Washington on Sunday night at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., by a score of 6-2.
The Sooners will open the best-of-three series for the national title on Mon., June 3, at 8 p.m. ET against seventh-seeded Tennessee. The Lady Vols knocked off fourth-seeded Texas earlier on Sunday evening, 2-1.
Keilani Ricketts improved her 2013 record to a staggering 34-1 overall, allowing one earned run on three hits with a pair of walks and 12 strikeouts over seven frames of effort. Second baseman Georgia Casey was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs, Ricketts helped her own cause with a HR as part of a 2-for-3, two-run, RBI performance, first baseman Lauren Chamberlain was 1-for-3 with a solo HR and center fielder Destinee Martinez was credited with a RBI.
“I'm incredibly proud of this team,” Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. “Words can't express how excited we are to be here. Although our actions may not look like it, this is a very focused and determined team that had one goal and that is to get back and have a chance to win a national championship. It is difficult to do. It's been difficult this entire year.
“But the pride I have in this team is about their perseverance and the fact that they are not shaken by anything. They've gone through some things, ups and downs and here we are. It's, to them, almost like another game. They're just playing it like they do every game all the time. This is with a really level keel that they have. It's just really been impressive. They impress me every time they go out on the field, just their calmness and their confidence. We played a very tough and aggressive and hot Washington team who has had a great run in postseason. I congratulate them on really giving a fight. They were a tough team.”
Center fielder Kylee Lahners provided the biggest of Washington three total hits by blasting a solo HR during a two-run fifth frame. Kaitlin Inglesby suffered the loss in the circle, finishing the year at 23-9 after allowing five earned runs on eight hits with seven walks and six K’s over seven innings.
Neither team did much offensively during the opening two innings, although the Sooners did manage one base runner in each frame against Washington hurler Kaitlin Inglesby and UW got third baseman Kimberlee Souza on via hit by pitch opening the bottom of the second.
OU’s offense finally got cooking starting the top of the third as Turang slapped a shot the opposite way that traveled over drawn-in left fielder Whitney Jones and off the wall for a leadoff triple. She didn’t remain at third for long as Inglesby’s next offering was wild, giving Turang plenty of time to scamper home from 60 feet away for a 1-0 Oklahoma advantage. Chamberlain extended the lead just two pitches later by hammering a solo shot just inside the left field foul pole. The long ball theme continued with two outs as Ricketts absolutely crushed a towering solo HR into the grandstand in center to make it 3-0.
With Ricketts cruising from the circle, OU looked to add more on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. Catcher Jessica Shults started things off with a single deep into the hole at short, moving to second on a sacrifice bunt. Right fielder Callie Parsons joined her teammate on the base paths via one out walk, and both runners advanced into scoring position on a groundout to second by Turang. The decision was made to walk the dangerous Chamberlain to pitch to second baseman Georgia Casey, but that move immediately backfired as Inglesby issued a walk to force in Oklahoma’s fourth tally. Pendley struck out swinging soon after to leave the bags packed, and with that missed opportunity to add to the lead, the tone and momentum of the game seemed to change sides.
Washington first baseman Hooch Fagaly broke up a string of six consecutive batters retired by Ricketts with one out in the top of the fourth by being struck by a pitch. At that point the Huskies had only managed two total base runners against the lefthander and both were via hit by pitch. Ricketts quickly rebounded from the errant toss to post consecutive strikeouts of Inglesby and Souza.
The first real trouble Ricketts faced from the circle occurred in the bottom of the fifth, and it all started on a leadoff HR to center off the bat of Lahners. Following a walk to catcher Shawna Wright and a strikeout of Jones, designated player Jerrin Fa’asua singled back through the middle, putting a pair of Huskies aboard with still only one out. UW second baseman Kelli Suguro hit a routine ground ball to third that figured to be good for at least one out, but Shelby Pendley threw the ball wide to second as pinch runner Mercedes Wetmore raced home to cut the deficit to 4-2. Washington would add no more as Ricketts registered her eighth and ninth strikeouts, but the scoreboard damage was done.
Oklahoma wasted no time supplying an offensive answer in the top of the sixth albeit with some assistance from a two-out error by the Huskies that allowed Turang to reach. Following a Chamberlain walk, Casey lifted a blooper into left center to plate Turang from second as the advantage grew back to three tallies.
A single down the left field line by Inglesby and a two-out walk issued to Wright didn’t end up hurting the Sooners in the bottom of the sixth as Jones bounced out routinely to second to end the threat.
Ricketts started the OU offense with a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh as the Sooners bid for some valuable insurance. Designated player Brittany Williams hit a slow roller up the line that hit off first base and eluded Fagaly for a single as Oklahoma boasted a pair on the base paths with still none out. From there a sacrifice bunt and a Destinee Martinez RBI groundout brought Ricketts home from third, improving the lead to 6-2. Consecutive walks by Parsons and Turang brought up the uber-dangerous Chamberlain with the bases loaded, but in this instance, the slugger just lifted a towering fly ball to shallow center.\
Washington went quietly in the bottom of the seventh as Fa’asua struck out, Suguro grounded back to the circle and Hayward K’ed looking to end it.