What can't Keilani Ricketts do?
The two-time National Player of the Year and Oklahoma's No. 1 pitcher turned the card to a 34-1 season with a 6-2 victory over Washington on Sunday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The top-ranked Sooners (55-4) advanced WCWS championship a second straight season; this time, they'll face Tennessee (52-10) for the national title.
The best-of-3 series begins at 7 p.m. Monday. Game 2 is 7 p.m. Tuesday, and Game 3, if necessary, is 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Ricketts did damage from the circle and the batter's box. Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said she didn’t see a weakness in Rickett’s game.
“I’m looking at her line score it’s very good. It’s very balanced,” Gasso said. “It was a complete, complete game tonight.”
In the third inning, two at bats after leadoff hitter Lauren Chamberlain sent the ball nearly 300 feet for a solo homer to left, Ricketts settled in and smacked the 3-2 pitch to right-center field.
The home run was Ricketts' 59th of her career, placing her in sole possession of fourth place and passing her sister Samantha, who had 48 homers for Oklahoma. It was also Ricketts' 14th homer of the season.
Ricketts also held a no-hitter until the bottom of the fifth inning when, with no outs, the Huskies' Kylee Lahners hit a solo shot to center field.
Another Washington run scored after OU third baseman Shelby Pendley, who has struggled with errors and hitting for much of the WCWS, overthrew second base to get an out on a fielder's choice. Instead, the ball rolled into center field while Washington's Shawna Wright, who had been on second, sprinted home.
Oklahoma answered the next inning when Georgia Casey's blooper to center allowed Brianna Turang to speed from second to home.
Ricketts even contributed on the bases. She slid across home plate in the seventh inning when Destinee Martinez grounded out toward first base.
Despite giving up three hits, Ricketts collected 12 strikeouts, bringing her three-game 2013 WCWS total to six hits and 26 strikeouts. The Sooners' No. 1 pitcher threw two 10-plus strikeout games this WCWS.
“I feel like after everything happened after the tornado and we got to spend time with Sydney (Angle)’s team, it was definitely an eye opening experience,” Ricketts said of the nine-year-old softball player who was killed in the May 20 tornado at Plaza Towers. “It just changed my perspective a little. It showed me you just have to have fun with your team. That’s when our team is so successful when we’re just having fun with each other.
“Yeah, we’re trying to get back to the national title game but we’re not too focused on that because we’re just making the game as simple as it should be.”
A couple months ago, Ricketts wasn’t a fan of talking about ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. She had bad memories on her mind from the Game 3 loss to Alabama in the WCWS championship series. On Sunday, she was all smiles as she stuck her arms out like an airplane while running toward home plate.
“I just feel like we’re really motivated,” Ricketts said. “We’ve been there and we have the experience. Tennessee’s a great team and it’s going to be a great battle. We’re hoping for a better result. We’re just a lot more motivated now.”