Oklahoma admitted to nerves during its Women's College World Series opener against South Florida on Thursday afternoon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium Sooner star Keilani Ricketts felt them. Coach Patty Gasso noticed them.
The Sooners were the event's opening act. The team with the largest group of fans. And they still felt the occasional reminder of last season's 0-2 showing in Oklahoma City.
But the OU bats came alive late against the Bulls, and Ricketts struck out 11 to help propel the Sooners to a 5-1 victory to move into the winners' bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
The reward? Time to prepare and rest before taking their shot at No. 1 California at 6 p.m. Friday.
“We're wanting to put on a good show, and we're wanting to win,” OU coach Patty Gasso said of the Thursday's emotions. “The goal here is to keep these guys in tune with what they're good at.
“Sometimes we get frustrated at ourselves because we're not getting what we want, and that can turn into some emotions that we don't want.”
OU (51-8), the No. 4 seed in the WCWS, did not get what it wanted the first time through the batting order against USF ace Sara Nevins. The Sooners were held hitless in the first three innings, while the Bulls took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Kourtney Salvarola singled to center to score pinch runner Courtney Goff.
The results changed, however, when the OU hitters got to face Nevins for the second time.
Destinee Martinez led off the Sooner half of the fourth by poking a single into left field. Then freshman slugger Lauren Chamberlain delivered the big blow, crushing a no-doubt, two-run homer into the wind over the wall in center to give the Sooners a 2-1 advantage. It was the 28th home run of the season for the first-team All-American, which increases her Big 12 single-season record.