The top-seeded Oklahoma softball team punched its ticket to the 2013 Women's College World Series on Saturday in the same manner they had won games all season: power at the plate and strong pitching in the circle.
Senior Keilani Ricketts threw her 16th shutout of the season and sophomore Shelby Pendley belted two home runs as the Sooners (52-4) rolled to an 8-0, five-inning win over 16th-seeded Texas A&M (42-18).
OU advances to the World Series for the third year in a row and eighth time in program history. In getting there, the Sooners have outscored teams 59-8 so far in the postseason, including four wins via run-rule.
"I am just extremely proud of this team and the things that it has accomplished this season to give us another chance to fight for a national championship, and being one of the final eight teams in the country is quite an accomplishment," Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. "To do have to do it going through a team like Texas A&M, who has had a phenomenal season, with some very good hitters and a pitcher who fights her tail off on the mound, I just really respect them and their coaching staff. They were a good test for us and they made us better."
Ricketts secured the win and improved her record to 31-1. She struck out seven, allowed just three hits and didn't walk a batter. In the two-game sweep, Ricketts was 2-0 with a 1.27 earned run average, struck out 20 and walked just one batter in 11.0 innings of work.
"There's a lot of pressure and expectation on her," Gasso said of Ricketts. "Everyone is calling her the greatest pitcher to play the game or one of the best. She's a pleaser. She wants to make everybody happy. She does put some unnecessary pressure on herself at times. To see her exhale and go back to what she knows, I felt that this weekend."
The win was No. 129 of Ricketts' career, tying Hofstra's Olivia Galati for 10th most in NCAA Division I history.
"I feel like we were just trying to focus on giving them a good mix because they came out jumping really aggressive the first inning and they were going at pitches I was trying to get ahead on last game," Ricketts said. "We were just trying to give them a good mix every at-bat."
Oklahoma got on the board in the first inning thanks to Pendley's first home run of the day, a solo shot to right center.
Pendley did it again in the third inning, blasting her second shot of the day.
Sophomore Lauren Chamberlain reached on a one-out single to center field. Fellow sophomore Georgia Casey then walked before Pendley launched a long three-run blast to right field.
It was her eighth career multi-home run game and her fifth this season. She has recorded 41 career home runs, 22 of which have come this season.
"I struggled yesterday and I just came into today with a different approach," Pendley said. "The first one was a rise-ball and the second one was a drop-ball. I was swinging at a lot of pitches in the dirt, and I just wasn't confident yesterday in my swing."
Oklahoma then broke the game open with a two-out rally in the fourth inning, tacking on four more runs. The team has now scored 200 of its 444 runs with two outs this season, or 45 percent.
After a groundout and lineout, senior Brianna Turang kept the inning alive with a single up the middle. Chamberlain walked to extend her school record to 59 this season. Casey was hit by a pitch to fill the bases before Pendley drew a walk on a full-count to make it 5-0.
Ricketts tacked on two more runs as she pulled an RBI double down the line, while junior Brittany Williams singled through the right side to score Chamberlain and bring in the game's eighth run.
"This series definitely gave us confidence going into the World Series and we have reached one of our goals, which was to get to the World Series," Ricketts said. "It's exciting because it's a tough route to get to it. We're just trying to focus on taking it one game at a time which has been good for the postseason so far."