NORMAN — Game 2 of the Super Regional was a typical run-rule victory for the Oklahoma softball team, which beat the Texas A&M 8-0 in five innings.
OU's players, however, were not the same.
After a muddy rainout earlier this week where they were surrounded by smiling children and grieving parents who lost homes, friends and family, Oklahoma grew.
Sooners coach Patty Gasso saw how the devastation of Moore changed her team in No. 1-ranked Oklahoma's two victories over Texas A&M on Friday and Saturday to win the Super Regional and push them to their eighth Women's College World Series.
No. 3 hitter Shelby Pendley sat patiently in Game 2 on Saturday after she swung at balls in the dirt in Game 1 and never reached base. Her two home runs, a solo homer in the first and a three-run shot in the third, vaulted Oklahoma (52-4) over the Aggies (42-18).
It was Pendley's fifth multi-home run game of the season and the eighth of her career.
But the biggest change Gasso saw was in her No. 1 pitcher, Keilani Ricketts.
Sure, for the second straight day, Ricketts gave up just three hits and earned her 16th shutout of the season. Yes, she struck out seven in Game 2 to give her a two-game total of 20 strikeouts.
That's typical Ricketts, though.
What Gasso saw was a change in Ricketts' mentality. She was more relaxed, less stressed. She was pitching for a little girl who she once inspired.
Now Sydney Angle was inspiring her.
Sydney Angle was one of seven children who was killed at Plaza Towers Elementary. She was a softball player for the Bring It 04 team in Moore, and she once met Ricketts. A photo was taken of the two softball players, the one so clearly in awe of the other.
“When we had the rainout and we were able to spend time with that Bring It team and I just saw Keilani in a different place,” Gasso said, “just recognizing that people are so excited to see her. Kids that were probably not having much joy in the last couple days were feeling it around her. That meant something important to her.”
The Angles lost their home and their 9-year-old daughter in Monday's tornado. They've searched for the picture of their little girl with Ricketts but haven't found it.
Ricketts doesn't need a photo though. She remembers Sydney Angle.
“I remember her face but I don't remember when we took the picture together,” Ricketts said. “There's just something about it I feel like I have a connection with her. It's kind of cool because as we play for Oklahoma, we're kind of playing for her as well.”
Over the past couple weeks, Gasso watched Ricketts put more pressure on herself. Gasso called her starting pitcher a “people pleaser” who wants to be “perfect.” On Saturday, Ricketts' greatest challenge was in the top of the first when, with one out, she gave up two singles to put runners on first and second.
She calmly and precisely struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
“There's great expectations on her,” Gasso said. “Everyone knows. Everyone is calling her the greatest pitcher to play the game, or one of the best. ... She wants to make everyone happy and think that. She does put some unnecessary pressure on herself so to see her relax and go back to what she knows, I felt that this weekend.”
It was all because of that moment when a photo captured a star pitcher and a little fan who dreamed of pitching. Now Sydney Angle's memory is propelling Ricketts back to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“Just to know I had an effect on someone that young that lost their life,” Ricketts said. “Just knowing I inspired someone like that, it was inspiring to me.”