Two more victories.
That’s all Oklahoma needs to accomplish what eluded the Sooners a year ago. OU, the No. 1 seed, advanced to the best-of-three title series of the Women’s College World Series with a 6-2 victory over Washington Sunday night. Oklahoma will face No. 7 seed Tennessee in Game One at 7 p.m. Monday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
It will be the second straight year the Sooners have faced a Southeastern Conference team in the final. In 2012, Alabama lost Game One but rallied to win the next two games to win the trophy.
“We’re relaxed,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “We just keep doing what we do. It’s been good enough to get us seeded No. 1 and it’s gotten us this far.
“This is a very focused and determined team that had one goal and that is to get back and have a chance to win a national championship. It is difficult to do. They impress me every time they go out on the field, just their calmness and their confidence. … Everybody's locked into this, and it's really ‑ it's really exciting.”
The Huskies gave the Sooners a tussle. Oklahoma jumped to a 4-0 lead and Washington closed to within 4-2 but OU added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Senior pitcher Keilani Ricketts, who homered in the third inning, limited Washington to three hits while striking out 12. She is 34-1 in the circle.
“I’m so relaxed out there because my team’s relaxed out there,” Ricketts said, echoing the sentiment of her coach. “We’re really motivated. We’ve been there and we’re experienced. Tennessee is a great team and it’s gonna be a great battle. We’re hoping for a better result.”
Brianna Turang, the No. 9 hitter in the Oklahoma lineup, led off the third with a slap triple over the left fielder’s head. She scored on a wild pitch. Lauren Chamberlain then drilled a homer to deep left – her 29th of the season - and with two outs Ricketts launched a moon shot homer to right center for a 3-0 lead.
Both Oklahoma and Tennessee went 3-0 to advance to the finals. The Vols outscored their three opponents 12-3. The Sooners had a 23-5 scoring edge in their three victories, continuing their trend in NCAA play. In eight post-season games, OU has outscored its foes by a combined 82-13.
“Everybody in the lineup has been doing their job and it’s a fun thing to watch,” Gasso said. “I like the seven, eight, nine hitters in our order. They’ve been just tremendous the last six weeks or so. They’ve taken the approach that they’re going to find a way to get on for Lauren Chamberlain. It’s been working and I’m not gonna change it because we don’t need to.”
If there is a concern for Oklahoma, it’s Shelby Pendley.
Selected as the Big 12 player of the year by the Conference coaches, Pendley has struggled in the WCWS. She’s 1-for-9 with five strikeouts. She struck out three times against Washington before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning with two runners on base. Pendley also made a throwing error that gave the Huskies a run.
“This (the WCWS) is still a new experience for Shelby, it can be a little overwhelming,” Gasso said. “Shelby helped get us here, and we know that; so we've got her back. The beauty of this game is tomorrow there is another day, and we start all over. We start all over, and she gets to start all over again.”
Tennessee earned the right to face Oklahoma with a 2-1 victory over No. 4 seed Texas. The loss eliminated the Longhorns (51-10). The Vols are making their second trip to the championship series; they lost to Arizona in 2007.
“Honestly, this is what we've all worked for,” said Tennessee’s Lauren Gibson, whose home run gave her team a 1-0 lead. “This is my third time going to the World Series, and this will be my first time in the World Championship Series. I can't even explain the feeling. Just so excited and feel so blessed to have this opportunity to play another game with my teammates and my friends, and just to continue our season.”
UT defeated Florida, 3-0, earlier Sunday to face the Vols. Texas senior pitcher Blaire Luna (32-7) faced 52 batters, threw 288 pitches, struck out 26 and allowed four hits. The Longhorns had five hits and didn’t score until Lindsey Stephens homered in the bottom of the seventh.
“It is upsetting that we came up short, but just being here and so proud of our team and just the fight and not giving up,” Luna said. “I've grown so much as a person this year, and I've accomplished a lot. I just really couldn't be any more proud of my team and of myself. Just the fact that we're at the World Series, it's something I wanted to accomplish and we did it.”
Women’s College World Series
ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
Monday’s Game 1: Oklahoma (55-4) vs. Tennessee (52-10), 7 p.m., ESPN2.
Tuesday’s Game 2: Oklahoma vs. Tennessee, 7 p.m., ESPN.
Wednesday’s Game 3*: Oklahoma vs. Tennessee, 7 p.m., ESPN.
* - If necessary.
How Oklahoma got here: The Sooners won all three games in the Norman Regional and then won the Norman Super Regional with two victories over Texas A&M. At the WCWS, the Sooners opened with a 7-1 victory over Michigan, defeated Texas, 10-2, and beat Washington, 6-2.
How Tennessee got here: The Volunteers won all three games in the Knoxville Regional and in the Knoxville Super Regional defeated defending national champion Alabama in two games. At the WCWS, the seventh-seeded Volunteers opened with a 9-2 victory over No. 2 seed Tennessee then defeated Washington, 1-0, and Texas, 2-1.
Oklahoma update: Sooners sophomore first baseman Lauren Chamberlain’s 82 RBI are a school and Big 12 record. Chamberlain also has 29 homers this year; she set the Big 12 record of 30 last season. … In three WCWS games, Keilani Ricketts has pitched 19 innings, allowing six hits, three earned runs with 25 strikeouts. … In Oklahoma’s 7-1 victory over Michigan in the opener, Ricketts threw the first no-hitter in five years in the WCWS. It was her sixth this season and the seventh of her career. … Oklahoma is 52-0 this season when scoring at least three runs. … In their three WCWS games, the Sooners have scored 11 runs in the innings following scoring by their opponents. … OU has scored more runs in the NCAA tournament (82 in eight games) than they've allowed all season (71 in 58 games). … The Sooners have set a single-season record for walks. OU has reached base in that manner 342 times. … Oklahoma has won 11 consecutive games. … Five of the Sooners’ eight NCAA games have been decided by the run rule; 27 of their 59 games have been decided that way.
Tennessee update: The Volunteers are playing in the WCWS final for the first time since 2007. … Tennessee finished second in the regular season in the Southeastern Conference and was knocked out of the SEC tournament after winning one game. … All-American third baseman Raven Chavanne was one of three finalists for the USA Softball national player of the year. She is one of the nation’s top hitters with a .457 average. She also has stolen 40 bases in 41 attempts. … In three WCWS victories, Tennessee has allowed 11 hits and has a team ERA of 1.00. … Lauren Gibson leads the Vols with 19 home runs, a school single-season record. She is hitting .413 with a team-high 68 RBI. … Tennessee has allowed one post-season home run and that came in Sunday’s victory over Texas. … Sisters Ellen and Ivy Renfroe shine in the circle for the Vols. Ellen, a junior, is 19-4 with a 1.76 ERA while Ivy, a senior, is 22-4 with a 1.71 ERA. … Tennessee is coached by a husband-and-wife duo – Ralph and Karen Weekly. They’re in their 12th season coaching the Vols.