By Corbin Hosler
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – Moments after stepping on first base and beating out an infield bunt, Brianna Turang turned back and looked toward her dugout across the field and screamed at the top of her lungs, bringing both the crowd and her teammates to their feet.
It was the most striking display of emotions the Sooners showed in Friday’s 10-2 victory over Texas A&M in opening game of the super regional, but it was far from the only one.
The Sooners said before the game they wanted to provide a distraction for their fans, many of whom were affected in some way by Monday’s devastating tornado outbreak, and they made good on that promise Friday, turning a tight 3-2 ballgame into a six-inning run-rule victory.
“Having people here that have been affected, we’re using them as kind of a strength,” Turang said. “It’s amazing to see those kids go through such a hard time and those families. Coming together and seeing that with our own eyes gave us the motivation to do anything to bring joy to them. We want to win for everyone here and bring that joy to our state. We fight for each other here, not just on the field but off it.”
On Friday, the top-ranked Sooners had more fight in them than No. 16 Texas A&M could handle.
Keilani Ricketts provided the drama both in the circle and at the plate. The senior, who was named as one of three finalists for USA Softball’s Player of the Year award earlier in the week, was magnificent from the start. She struck out 13 batters and gave up just three hits in six innings, sitting the Aggies down one after another in brutally efficient fashion.
Her fantastic day in the circle was impressive enough, but that didn’t stop her from going one step further. Or, more accurately, about 200 steps farther, blasting a walk-off three-run homer in the sixth inning to cap a seven-run inning and end the game early. It completed a 2-for-3 day at the plate for Ricketts, who finished with four RBIs and a walk.
“Ricketts came up clutch today,” assistant coach Melyssa Lombardi said. “She was clutch, Bri was clutch, Lauren Chamberlain was clutch. It was a total team effort. I’m extremely proud of our team.”
Not that it was easy, given the circumstances. The Sooners have spent much of the past week volunteering around the metro, and made the most of their chance to give fans an escape on Friday.
“It’s definitely been emotional,” Ricketts said. “History happened just a few miles away from us. It’s devastating to know the state of Oklahoma is going through this. We’re just trying to be strong for Oklahoma.”
In the first of a best-of-three series against the Aggies, the Sooners (51-4) were strong enough that they put themselves just one win away from advancing to the Women’s College World Series next week in Oklahoma City. They’ll meet the Aggies (42-17) at 11 a.m. today with a chance to punch their ticket, with an if-necessary game scheduled for 2 p.m.