Oklahoma's Jessica Shults. Courtesy OU Athletic Media Relations.OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Oklahoma pounded out 11 hits to top Alabama, 4-1, on Monday night in the opener of the 2012 Women’s College World Series Championship Series at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The Sooners now have a 1-0 lead in the series and can clinch their first national championship since 2000 with a win on Tuesday night.
Despite being outhit 7-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth, Alabama (58-9) was first on the board in the contest with a sacrifice fly from Kendall Dawson that allowed pitcher Jackie Traina to score for the 1-0 lead.
In the fifth, Oklahoma (54-8) finally got through the Crimson Tide defense with a sacrifice run of its own from Jessica Shults to tie the game and a RBI-fielder’s choice from Brianna Turang to take the lead.
In the sixth, the Sooners tacked on two insurance runs to cap the scoring at 4-1 with a RBI-single from Shults and a suicide squeeze from Katie Norris that plated pitcher Keilani Ricketts.
Ricketts (38-7) gave an outstanding performance on both sides of the plate in the contest. In the circle, she allowed only two runs off of five hits with just one walk and 12 strikeouts. At the plate, she was 1-for-4 with a run and a stolen base. Monday’s 12 strikeouts marks the fourth consecutive time in the WCWS that she has fanned 10 or more batters and brings her four-game total to 52, for an average of 13 per game.
After the game, Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso talked about the versatility of Ricketts.
“She’s just a tremendous athlete who wants to compete and wants to win. I'm not afraid to run with her. I think when you see Keilani on the base path, you might think she won't run. She can run. She can slide. She's very athletic. I don't know that it's always smart on my part to have her in those situations, but it fires up this team.”
For Alabama, Traina suffered just her third loss of the season after allowing two earned runs off of four hits with four walks and six strikeouts. Offensively, Jennifer Fenton led the Tide by going 2-for-4 at the dish.
The second game of the 2012 WCWS Championship Series will take place on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN2. To keep its championship hopes alive, Alabama must win and force the “If Necessary” game on Wednesday night.
Since the championship series was instituted in 2005, only two times, 2005 and 2007, has a third game been needed to determine a champion. In both cases, the team that came back to win game two, went on to win game three and the national title.