NORMAN — The luxury Oklahoma has in Keilani Ricketts was on full display in Saturday afternoon’s Norman Regional contest against Tulsa.
Yes, she’s one of the most feared pitchers and hitters in the nation. But she also impacts the mentality of her team. The Sooners simply don’t panic when she’s in the circle.
Ricketts struck out 10 batters in a complete-game, three-hitter, and OU finally broke through with six runs in the sixth inning to capture a 7-1 victory over the Golden Hurricane at the OU Softball Complex to move on to Sunday’s regional championship round.
“When Keilani’s on the mound working and just striking people out, it gives us the confidence at the plate,” said OU catcher Jessica Shults, who tied the game at 1 with an RBI double, “(to) be able to take the momentum that she’s kind of building for us and to kind of answer her.
“We don’t really get stressed out and we kind of just let the game happen. We were getting good at-bats, it just all fell together in the sixth inning.”
The No. 4 Sooners (47-8) now need just one victory to move on to host next weekend’s Super Regionals. OU will face Oregon State at 1 p.m. Sunday, and an “if necessary” game will follow 30 minutes after should OU lose that first contest.
After last night’s early offensive outburst — OU scored 13 runs in the second inning en route to a 19-3 rout of Lehigh — the Sooner bats were quiet until the sixth against TU starter Lacey Middlebrooks. OU recorded just three hits through five innings, and its best chance came to score in the first when Georgia Casey was caught in a rundown between third base and home.
But Ricketts was dominant in her 30th victory of the season. After giving up a run on an RBI groundout by Jessica Stoelke in the second, Ricketts struck out the next seven batters she faced. So far in this Regional, she allowed three hits and one run in 10 innings and struck out 17 batters.
“After they scored the run, I knew I just couldn’t let my frustrations get the best of me,” Ricketts said. “When that happens, the other team will take that as momentum for themselves. I knew that we just had to keep composed.”