Jamia Reid, the first batter Oklahoma ace Keilani Ricketts faced against No. 1 California, slipped to the ground while swinging through strike three.
Jace Williams, the final batter Ricketts faced in the sixth, could only stare as the third strike crossed the plate.
Ricketts consistently fooled one of the nation’s most potent offenses Friday night, striking out 16 batters in a two-hit shutout to lead OU to a 3-0 victory over the top-ranked Golden Bears in the winners’ bracket of the Women’s College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“I just feel like I’ve been locked in this whole postseason,” Ricketts said.
In the process, Ricketts, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, helped give OU the inside track to the championship round. The Sooners (52-8) get to dodge “elimination Saturday” and will next play either Arizona State, South Florida or LSU at noon Sunday. That team would need to beat OU twice to advance to the championship series.
There are numerous reasons why OU has put itself in this prime position. The No. 4 Sooners have arguably the best 3-4-5 batting trio in the nation in power hitters Lauren Chamberlain, Ricketts and Jessica Shults. Their freshmen are playing with great maturity, as Chamberlain continued her dominant debut season with a 2-for-4 performance Friday, including an RBI double to right-center in the third inning, and fellow first-year player Georgia Casey lifted a home run to left-center in the sixth to make the score 3-0.
But Ricketts is stringing together the types of performances that can carry a team to a national championship.
“It’s fun watching her approach and how she takes the field,” Chamberlain said of Ricketts. “She gets the rest of the team on the same page with her.
“She lifts us up to a new level, and especially in postseason, that’s what you need from your team leader.