Cal (57-6) came into Friday’s contest batting .318 as a team. The Sooner lefty struck out the side in the first, third and fourth innings. The 16 strikeouts matched Ricketts' season-high and were two shy of a WCWS single-game record.
Ricketts (35-7), who has not allowed an earned run in 40 consecutive innings, said her changeup was working well Friday. The Cal hitters agreed.
“Her changeup was on,” Williams said. “It was dropping off the table.”
Said Ricketts: “It helped that I was just hitting my spots. Because Cal, being the great team that they are, they could capitalize on any mistake that I was going to make.”
And in a way, facing Ricketts in practice helped the OU hitters prepare to face a pitcher like Cal ace Jolene Henderson, who also throws a wicked off-speed pitch.
The Sooners threatened often against Henderson (37-3), leaving 10 runners on base, including the bags full in the third and fourth innings. But any missed opportunities ultimately did not matter because of Ricketts’ dominance.
Cal will next play at 8:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the elimination game between Tennessee and Oregon. Those teams play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
But even if the top-ranked Golden Bears happen to face OU again, they would have to beat Ricketts. Twice.
“I’ve seen her really step up in clutch situations,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “They had runners in scoring positions and (she had) to find a way out of it. She’s been doing that all year long, over and over.
“(I’m) seeing her become, truly, one of the best, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to watch.”