OKLAHOMA CITY — Keilani Ricketts was upset. As Oklahoma’s All-American pitcher came off the mound in the fourth inning, she was visibly angry.
Ricketts had just given up her fifth run to Alabama and coach Patty Gasso had seen enough. She pulled her star to save her for another day as the Sooners were knocked around 8-6 by the Crimson Tide on Tuesday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Ricketts gets a chance for redemption at 7 p.m. today when Oklahoma (54-9) and Alabama (59-8) will find out who is the best team in the nation in a deciding Game 3 of the Women’s College World Series. After her performance in Game 2, her teammates are looking forward to getting Ricketts back on the field.
“I have a shot tomorrow to just lay it out there,” Ricketts said. “Just give my team the momentum I needed to give them tonight.”
The Sooners outhit the Tide 9-4, but for the second straight game let opportunities slip past them. This time around they were hurt by them.
“We know Keliani’s mindset going into all these college world series games,” freshman Lauren Chamberlain said. “We know she is going to come ready to play, ready to fight for her team just like we are going to fight for her.”
Ricketts found herself in trouble early in the first inning. After allowing a hit, plunking a batter, then walking another, she had the bases loaded with two outs.
Yet, Ricketts got out of the jam by getting Kendall Dawson to ground out.
The Sooners attempted to make them pay in the bottom of the inning. Jessica Shults came to the plate with two runners on base. She blooped a single into shallow center that brought in a run.
UA tied the game in the second when Javen Henson was unable to tag out a runner at third, allowing Keima Davis to tie the score. Alabama wasn’t done. Jackie Traina connected for a three-run double to give the Tide a 4-1 advantage.
The Tide tacked on another in the fourth before Gasso came and got Ricketts. The five runs allowed tied a season high for the national player of the year. It was only the ninth time this year that Ricketts was unable to go the distance.
“I don’t think any particular soreness was getting to me,” Ricketts said. “I think I was just giving their team momentum and I wasn’t giving my team any momentum. That’s a pitcher’s role. To get those clutch outs for your team.”
Ricketts was replaced by Michelle Gascoigne. She was unable to stop the bleeding. Amanda Locke put Alabama up 8-1 with a three-run double to center.
Traina was in complete control of the Sooners’ offense for six innings. But in the bottom of the seventh, the Sooners finally started swinging their bats.
Shults’ three-run home run cut into Alabama’s lead. Erica Sampson added another run to close the deficit to 8-6 with two outs and Henson at the plate. OU would get no closer as Traina struck out the sophomore to end the game, but not before the Sooners made a statement.
“I think one of the greatest things to happen in this tournament is what we did in the seventh inning,” Gasso said. “Whether we won or lost, the message that we sent, the confidence that we brought, it was probably one of the most proud moments I’ve had with this team in not quitting. They scored five runs off one of the best pitchers in the country, saying we’re going to be back tomorrow.
“We are going to put it all out on the line. We are coming in locked in and ready to fight.”
Michael Kinney 366-3537 firstname.lastname@example.org