OKLAHOMA CITY — Lauren Chamberlain hit a two-run home run down the left-field line in the bottom of the 12th inning, lifting top-seeded Oklahoma to a 5-3 win against Tennessee on Monday night in Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series finals.
Chamberlain followed Brianna Turang’s leadoff double by smashing a high drive that soared over the foul pole for her 30th home run of the season, tying for the NCAA lead.
She thrust her arms into the air when third-base umpire Christie Cornwell signaled that it was a home run and not a foul ball, then ran around the bases into a celebration at home plate.
“I really couldn’t believe it,” Chamberlain said. “It was awesome.”
Game 2 of the best-of-three championship series is tonight.
The Sooners capitalized on a dropped pop-up to rally from three runs down in the 11th after Tennessee’ Madison Shipman broke a scoreless tie with a three-run home run off of national player of the year Keilani Ricketts (35-1).
Ellen Renfroe (19-5) was able to match Ricketts until the end, striking out 13 for seventh-seeded Tennessee (52-11).
It ended up as the longest game in the championship round since 1984, when UCLA beat Texas A&M 1-0 in 13 innings back when a single game decided the NCAA softball title.
Shipman lined an 0-1 pitch from Ricketts over the 220-foot fence in straightaway center field to break a scoreless tie in a throwback to the pitching duels of World Series from years gone by.
But the Sooners were able to rally in the bottom half of the inning after second baseman Lauren Gibson dropped Ricketts’ popup along the right-field line to allow her to reach second. Brittany Williams followed with an RBI double and Destinee Martinez had a two-out RBI triple before Callie Parsons tied it on an RBI double to left.
Parsons was thrown out trying to advance to third.
“It was phenomenal how we ended up tying that game with just some clutch hits, and it all came in one inning,” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said. “Sometimes that’s all you need. ... That was one of the most amazing comebacks I’ve ever seen.”
Ricketts retired the Lady Vols in order in the 12th, striking out national player of the year finalist Raven Chavanne to end the inning, before the Sooners struck again.
“This is a team on a mission and, man, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Gasso said.
It was the longest outing of Ricketts’ career, and she hadn’t needed to throw more than seven innings all season as the dominant Sooners had 20 of their games shortened to five innings by the eight-run mercy rule. They led the nation in scoring and earned-run average coming into the World Series and had won five of their first eight NCAA tournament games by the mercy rule while outscoring opponents 82-13.
But they ran into a Tennessee team that had also gone 8-0 in the NCAA tournament to reach the finals. The finals feature all three finalists for national player of the year — Ricketts and Chamberlain for Oklahoma, and Chavanne for the Lady Vols.
Chavanne, a .455 hitter, struck four times and went 0 for 6. Chamberlain was 2 for 6 and also had a double and Ricketts was 2 for 5, with the 11th-inning popup being officially scored as a double.
The teams combined for just three hits through seven innings, and then both started threatening in the extra frames.
The Lady Vols got the leadoff runner on in the eighth when shortstop Jessica Vest misplayed Melissa Davin’s grounder for an error. She was sacrificed to second before Hannah Akamine drew a four-pitch walk, but Ricketts struck out pinch-hitter Rainey Gaffin before Chavanne lined out to Vest for the third out.
Renfroe then got herself into and out of a tight spot in the ninth, giving up Georgia Casey’s leadoff single before throwing into the dirt on Shelby Pendley’s sacrifice bunt. She struck out Ricketts before a wild pitch allowed both runners to advance with one out, then walked Brittany Williams to load the bases.
First baseman Melissa Brown fielded Jessica Shults’ grounder and got the force at home, then Renfroe struck out Destinee Martinez to send the game to the 10th.