OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - As Scarlett O'Hara was fond of saying, "tomorrow ... is another day."
For Oklahoma and Alabama, "tomorrow" is Wednesday and Wednesday is the last day of the 2012 season. At 7 p.m. (ESPN) at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, the Sooners and the Crimson Tide meet in a winner-takes-the-trophy Game Three of the Women's College World Series.
Alabama, seeking its first softball championship and the first for the Southeastern Conference, forced the decisive game in decisive fashion. The Crimson Tide (59-8) took advantage of Keilani Ricketts' inaccuracy and Oklahoma mistakes to record an 8-6 victory Tuesday night before a standing-room-only crowd of 8,385.
Game Three will answer one interesting question: Is their momentum in softball and does it carry over from one day to the next? If so, OU started brewing some Sooner Magic in the bottom of the seventh.
"I think one of the greatest things that has happened in this tournament is what we did in the seventh inning tonight," Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. "We scored five runs off one of the best pitchers in the country. And the message that we sent is that we're going to be back tomorrow."
Limited to four harmless singles through six innings by Alabama ace Jackie Traina, the Sooners scored five runs on five hits. Destinee Martinez and Brianna Turang had triples while catcher Jessica Shults hit the first homer of this series, a three-run rocket to right field. In two games against Traina, Oklahoma has collected 20 hits.
After the Sooners rallied from a 1-0 deficit to take a 4-1 victory in Game One Monday night, Traina said she and her teammates would "flush it." That will be good advice for the Big 12 Conference champions.
Oklahoma took a 1-0 lead in the home half of the first. Georgia Casey, in a 2-for-23 slump, started the inning with a single and scored on Jessica Shults two-out bloop single to left center. And that was pretty much the high point for the Sooners.
Javen Henson failed to handle a routine grounder by designated player Amanda Locke to start the top of the second. That set up a four-run inning that was capped when Traina, Alabama's cleanup hitter, cleared the bases with a two-out double to left center that gave 'Bama a 4-1 lead. Two of the runners who scored had been hit by Ricketts.
The Oklahoma ace went to the dugout after pitching 3.1 innings. Reliever Michelle Gascoigne gave up another two-out, three-run double - this one by Locke - to put the Tide up 8-1. When Oklahoma put up a five-spot in the seventh, Locke's hit was huge in retrospect.
"That's two hits, six runs," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "You never know when that's gonna happen. They left a ton of people on base yesterday. We come up with two outs and the bases loaded and score six runs. So it's a strange game, softball."
Before Monday night's game, Ricketts was averaging a hit batter every 11 innings. In 10.1 innings against the Tide, she has hit seven. In Tuesday's game, she hit five; combined with two OU errors and two passed balls, the Sooners were far too charitable.
"This was a very uncharacteristic game for us," Gasso said. "We needed to make Alabama work a little bit harder for their opportunities."
This burg figures to be rocking Wednesday night. Not only with an NCAA champion be crowned, but a few miles away at Chesapeake Energy Arena the Oklahoma City Thunder can win Game Six to become NBA Western Conference champions.
"We've got a tomorrow," Gasso said. "The idea is that this game was meant to be. It's going to be great for the fans, it's going to be great for both teams. We're going to be part of history. I think after the seventh inning, we didn't get the win, we didn't deserve it, but we have the advantage going into tomorrow."
Which, after all, is another day.