Phoenix wire reports
NORMAN – Keilani Ricketts didn’t waste any time as she began her final postseason at Marita Hynes Field. The senior opened with her signature fastball to Marist’s leadoff batter Maureen Duddy. It sailed past for strike one. So she repeated the pitch twice more.
It was a fitting start to Ricketts’ final NCAA tournament in the circle, and the Sooners’ eventual 17-0, five-inning victory was fitting for a team that has drawn praise as possibly one of the best ever assembled.
The win puts the Sooners a winner’s bracket game against Arkansas, a 5-1 winner over Fordham, at 1 p.m. today while Marist and Fordham meet in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m. today.
Not that Ricketts, who like all the Sooners, claims to not look far ahead, looked at it that way.
“I wasn’t think about all that,” she said. “I was just thinking about how excited we were to start this postseason journey. We’re excited because of how we finished last year, and it’s a hard journey to get to that game.”
“That game” is the NCAA championship where the Sooners fell to Alabama in last year’s title game. This time around, the Sooners gave Ricketts exactly the kind of start she was hoping for to change things.
OU (48-4) dominated from the start. After Ricketts retired Marist (30-25) in order to open the game, the Sooners immediately went to work at the plate. Lauren Chamberlain singled and Georgia Casey followed that up with a double. Shelby Pendley then walked and brought Ricketts to the plate, who helped her own cause by singling in three runs and igniting what would be an eight-run first inning.
Not that Ricketts would need much help in that cause. She went three innings, allowing just one hit while earning seven of her nine outs by way of the strikeout. After OU pushed the lead to 17-0 in the third inning, Michelle Gascoigne entered in relief of Ricketts and struck out another five batters to secure the six outs needed to complete the game.
The fast start was exactly what coach Patty Gasso had in mind. So much so, in fact, she almost sent Lauren Chamberlain into what would have been a certain out at home as the sophomore rounded third base in the first inning. Gasso waved her through before throwing up the stop sign at the last second. Chamberlain slipped on the grass near third and almost was caught in a rundown before sliding safely back to third base.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a while,” Gasso said. “That was my excitement and wanting to score early and score fast. Maybe it was a little overly aggressive call by myself, but luckily it didn’t come back to hurt us.”
Arkansas (35-18) used nine hits to score five unanswered runs in the game.
“It’s great to get that first win,” said Arkansas coach Mike Larabee. “We were anxious to get going, I thought we played a solid game. Our defense was great today and I thought we did a great job of communicating on defense.”
Leading the way for the Razorbacks was sophomore Kimmy Beasley. She pitched a complete game and allowed one run on six hits. She struck out eight batters in the contest to secure the win.
“Kimmy did a great job,” Larabee said. “In our program we talk about being great in the circle and playing championship defense. We did that tonight and got timely hits. We have been fortunate to have a good pitching staff all year.”
Freshman Stephanie Canfield paced the Razorbacks in the batter’s box. She went 3-for-3 and notched an RBI in the game. Devon Wallace finished 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, a run scored and an RBI fir Arkansas.
“Stephanie really had a nice day at the plate,” coach Larabee said. “She had three big hits tonight and manufactured some runs. Devon getting on base is really important, she is a catalyst for us. It was nice to see her get to swing the bat.”
Tulsa falls to loser’s bracket
LINCOLN, Neb. – Stanford broke a 2-2 tie with a two-run home run in the fifth inning, leading the Cardinal to a 4-2 win over Tulsa in the opening game of the NCAA Lincoln Regional on Friday.
The Golden Hurricane (42-15-1) will play Northern Iowa, a 4-0 loser to Nebraska, in an elimination game at 4 p.m. today.
All of the scoring in the contest came on two-run home runs. TU first baseman Julie Kernen homered down the line in left field in the top of the first inning to give the Hurricane a 2-0 lead. Stanford’s Jessica Plaza answered with a two-run shot in the bottom of the second to tie the game at 2-2, and first baseman Kayla Bonstrom hit the home run that gave the Cardinal (38-19) the lead.
Aimee Creger (25-7) struck out three and allowed five hits in five innings for Tulsa. Teagan Gerhart (20-11) struck out five and earned the complete-game win for Stanford.
“I felt like it came down to a couple of centered-up balls,” Tulsa coach John Bargfeldt said. “They got two with the right angle and trajectory, and with the wind blowing out it didn’t take a whole lot to get one out today. I thought defensively we played well. Probably the most disappointed I was, was in our ability to make adjustments to the pitcher. I felt like we were underneath way more than we should have been.”
Kernen put the Golden Hurricane on the board with her two-run shot down the left field line in the top of the first. The homer scored shortstop Samantha Cobb, who reached on a fielder’s choice after third baseman Jill Barrett walked.
Each of Stanford’s home runs occurred with one out in the inning. Plaza’s homer followed a single, and Bonstrom’s followed a walk.
Creger worked around a walk in the first with a line-out double play to Kernen at first, and retired the side in order in the third. She worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the fourth with a grounder to third, and retired the final two batters of the second and fifth innings after the home runs. Lacey Middlebrooks pitched a scoreless sixth inning for the Hurricane.
Barrett doubled in the third inning, and TU had runners at first and second in the fifth inning, but was unable to push any more runs across the plate.
“We just have to think of the next game,” Bargfeldt said. “Everybody knows in this game, in sports, once you get on a roll, then things change. What you have to do is get started. You have to get started by focusing on that next game. That’s what we intend to do – focus on that next one.”