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Here is a very cool video package Sooner Sports TV put together from Tuesday night's national championship clinching win.
Do you remember how many times we told you about the depth of this Oklahoma Softball team? Do you remember, just yesterday in fact, when we told you how Michelle Gascoigne would be the 'Keilani Ricketts' on just about any other team in the country?
You saw both of these things last night.
When you win a national championship deciding game without your four time All-American pitcher and back-to-back National Player of the Year in the circle, you're a damn good softball team.
In what could only be described as the biggest and best start of her career, Gascoigne threw an unbelievable game and clinching Oklahoma's first softball national title since 2000. The senior lefty went the distance going seven innings, striking out twelve without a single walk, and allowing a paltry three hits. It was, quite simply, magnificent.
At one point in the latter portion of the game, Ricketts was sent out to the bullpen and began warming up. Not because Gascoigne was in any trouble, far from it in fact as she was in control of the game literally from her first pitch, but with the assumption that Patty Gasso would give the two-time National Player of the Year a chance to close out her career in the circle. But that didn't happen and being the Hall of Fame coach Gasso is, she was rewarded for the decision with a stellar pitching performance and her second national championship.
It was an incredible moment for a senior (Gascoigne) who has played in the shadow of Ricketts for her entire OU career, but found a role these past two years in which she excelled. And obviously none more so than Tuesday night in what had to be an incredibly rewarding moment for someone who has been the ultimate team player.
As for Ricketts, all she did in a "supporting" role was drive in all four Oklahoma runs in the game including a three run blast over the right centerfield fence. Normally accustomed to starring in the circle, Ricketts has always been a lethal threat at the plate and that fact is what places her among the all-time greats to ever play the sport. It's one thing to do it in the circle OR do it at the plate, but to do it as well as she does at both makes her very, very special.
And while there were countless incredible individual performances on this team both during the regular and postseason, few who have not followed this team as closely as others will truly appreciate what this team accomplished in 2013.
The disappointment of leaving Oklahoma City this time last year as the better team but without a national title created an indescribable amount of pressure and expectations on this year's team. The fact they were able to live up to, maybe even exceed, all of those expectations over the course of sixty plus game season is not something that should be taken for granted. It probably will be, but it shouldn't.
In moments of honesty, the coaches and players have admitted they felt the pressure. And how could they not. But to their credit, they reveled in it and Tuesday night was their reward.
It's been a special year for an incredibly special team and it would have been criminal for it to end any other way than it did Tuesday. Congratulations to the coaches, players, support staff, and everyone affiliated with this softball program!
TROPHY twitter.com/SoonerSoftball…— Oklahoma Softball (@SoonerSoftball) June 5, 2013
We'll have more in the morning, but tonight is for celebrating.
Congrats to Patty Gasso, her coaching staff, and this incredible team. What a remarkable accomplishment under the weight of unimaginable expectations.
Party like there's no tomorrow!
One year in the making.
One game away.
Momentum is on their side.
Can they claim their spot as one of the greatest teams of all-time?
We're about to find out.
Without taking into account the emotions - which are obviously impossible to truly eliminate from the equation, so just play along - and looking simply at the facts as they are, Oklahoma four time All-American Keilani Ricketts threw 188 pitches Monday night.
Yes, she's a back-to-back National Player of the Year. Yes, she's the most dominant pitcher in the sport. But she is human.
And because of that inconvenient fact, we're forced to ask the following question. "Do you start Ricketts tonight coming off a 188 pitch outing?"
There are a number of factors to take into account when trying to speculate as to what head coach Patty Gasso's decision may be.
* Pitch counts - For those who don't follow softball, they may look at that number and raise their eyebrows as to how any pitcher would be allowed to throw that many pitches. The thing to understand is because of a softball pitcher's throwing motion, their isn't the same kind of impact on the arm/elbow/shoulder areas. I'm not a doctor, so I can't give you the technicalities but just know it's different.
That said, 188 pitches is still a lot even for a softball pitcher.
Ricketts was asked following Monday night's game if she would be ready to go Tuesday night and she was confident that she would be. But what exactly would you expect her to say?
* Depth - A lot of softball teams rely heavily on one pitcher and when forced to go to a backup, there tends to be a significant drop off. Oklahoma does not have this problem. Senior Michelle Gascoigne would be the 'Ricketts' on just about any other team in the country, she is that good and has been all year for the Sooners.
So it's not as though Gasso would be worried about a talent drop off from Ricketts to Gascoigne if she asked the latter to start Game Two on Tuesday evening.
* Circumstance - Oklahoma is ahead 1-0 in the best-of-three series and thus obviously has the luxury of a one game advantage. So on one side of the coin you have the ability to go with Gascoigne and possibly rest Ricketts. As we've described, Gascoigne is more than capable and it's easy to envision her pitching well enough to close things out for Oklahoma.
On the other hand, the counter argument to that would be why risk the chance of losing a Game Two and putting yourself in a similar position to last year by potentially losing two in a row and another national championship.
I suppose it depends on whether or not you (and by 'you' I mean Patty Gasso) consider starting Gascoigne to be a "risk." Given how well she has pitched this year, the last two years really, I'd suspect Gasso would have the utmost confidence in Gascoigne if that's the route she decides to go.
Not going with Ricketts in a potential close out game would have to be seen as at least somewhat of a calculated risk, if for no other reason than she's the best pitcher in the country. There are some extenuating circumstances, as we've discussed, but does Gasso deem them significant enough to go with a fresh Gascoigne over Ricketts?
Patty Gasso is a Hall of Famer for a reason and in theory, this is what they call a good problem to have but it's not the most enviable of positions she finds herself in.
We'll find out what she decides Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. (CST) on ESPN. Who you got?
There is no way a competent recap is possible after what we just witnessed. So as long as you read this with caveat in mind, we're good.
Down 3-0 heading into the bottom of the eleventh inning, Oklahoma seemed destined for one of the most devastating losses in school history. Keilani Ricketts had been nearly unhittable prior to allowing a three run home run in the top half of the inning, after which a loss seemed inevitable.
Oh ye of little faith (and by 'ye' we may or may not be referring directly to the person writing this recap).
The Sooners would answer with an improbably three runs to tie the game after ten plus innings of a struggle at the pate like we've yet to see all season. A one out Ricketts double would start the rally. She would be driven home by a Brittany Williams double to make it 3-1. A Jessica Shults ground out would advance the runner but put two outs on the board. A Destinee Martinez triple over the center fielder's head would make it a one run game before Callie Parsons would stroll to the plate with chance to tie it up. She would answer with the biggest hit of her career, a double to left center before getting thrown out at third to end the inning.
Ricketts, already near 150 pitches in the game, would set the Volunteers down in order in the top half of the twelfth. The Sooners would have the ideal 1-2 combo, Brianna Turang and Lauren Chamberlain, coming up with a potential walk off win opportunity on the line.
As she's done all year long from the No. 9 hole, Turang got things started with a bloop double down the left field line. Then the best hitter in the game would step to the plate and, well, do what she does.
Chamberlain hit a ball that looked innocent enough off the bat, possibly even foul, but she is so good and so strong the ball just continued to travel. The Tennessee left fielder continued to drift back and back until she ran up against the wall and Chamberlain concluded one of the most improbable comebacks in OU athletics history.
5-3 FINAL, OU WINS!!!!!!!!
There are simply no words to truly describe how Oklahoma won this game. It was incredible.
Not to make any presumptions, but if you're Tennessee how on earth to do you come back from a loss like this?
We'll find out Tuesday night in what should be a very, very interesting game. Until then, enjoy a win that was earned in every possible sense of the word.
Step one of two starts tonight.
7:00 p.m. (CST) on ESPN2
Time to do work, ladies!
Well, here we are again. Oklahoma in the championship series against an SEC opponent. Only this time it's Tennessee instead of Alabama. Just like the Sooners, Tennessee comes into Monday's Game One with an unblemished record in Oklahoma City. The Volunteers went through Florida, Washington, and then Texas to find their way to the final.
As a team, Tennessee is not all that different than Oklahoma. While no one can truly compare from a talent/depth standpoint, the Volunteers really that far behind. They have two co-aces they can go to in the circle in sisters Ivy and Ellen Renfroe. And they have a potent top half of their lineup with multiple threats in National Player of the Year finalist Raven Chavanne, the team's primary power source Lauren Gibson, Kat Doston and Madison Shipman.
The primary factor, of factors as it were, that makes them such a threat to the national championship Oklahoma has been on a mission to claim all year long is the Renfroes. So many teams in the sport of softball rely on one ace to carry them that when/if you are able to chase them from a game, the drop off to a team's second pitcher can be significant. However, these two sisters are pretty much interchangeable for the most part so even if Oklahoma can get it going offensively early it's not as if Tennessee will have no one to call on in relief.
The difference in this best of three series could come down to Oklahoma's 7-8-9 hitters who have terrorized opposing pitchers all season. Destinee Martinez, Callie Parsons, and Brianna Turang have either been (1) a catalyst for the ridiculously loaded top half of OU's batting order or (2) simply generated their own offense by getting on base and driving each other in. These three Sooners are what separates Oklahoma from being another good team to arguably one of the greatest teams of all time.
But if you want to be included in that discussion, you're going to have to bring home the ultimate prize. And now there is only one team standing in the way of this Oklahoma team accomplishing that goal.
An Oklahoma team who left Oklahoma City this same time last year disappointed for failing to claim a title they believe they should have won. An Oklahoma team that has spent virtually this entire season punishing their opponents as a result of said disappointment from last year.
For everything this Oklahoma team has accomplished so far this year, and that list is long and still growing, you better believe Tennessee feels just as deserving to be playing for a national title. Nothing is going to be given to this OU squad, so they are going to have to take it.
Can this Oklahoma team, who many have described as possibly one of the best teams of all time, finally claim that elusive national title? Or will an SEC opponent dash their hopes for a second consecutive year?
We'll find out at least a partial answer to those questions Monday night with first pitch of Game One scheduled for shortly after 7:00 p.m. (CST) on ESPN2.
When you can play your worst game of the postseason and still win comfortably, you know just how dominant this Oklahoma softball team has become.
"Worst" requires some level of context considering Keilani Ricketts only allowed three hits, two runs, struck out twelve, AND hit a home run. And Lauren Chamberlain hit a home run that still probably hasn't landed yet. But Oklahoma failed to capitalize on several other scoring opportunities that could have made the final score of 6-2 much more lopsided.
Much of the focus for OU's struggles Sunday night will fall at the feet of Shelby Pendley, who struggled both in the field and at the plate. So much so with regards to the latter that the Big 12's Player of the Year was pulled for a pinch hitter late in the game, although she was reinserted later defensively and finished the game at third base for the Sooners. Head coach Patty Gasso was quick to defend her stud transfer following the game and rightfully so after the year Pendley had, which one bad night surely cannot erase.
Shelby struggled a little bit. Just a little long with her swing, and the Washington pitcher is throwing gas. She's throwing the ball hard. So everybody needed to get a little bit shorter, go maybe a little bit lighter with their bats and Shelby just was a little bit long.
So I wanted to give somebody a chance that has a little bit shorter swing, and Javen has had College World Series experience. This is still a new experience for Shelby, and if this is something you have not had experienced before, it can be a little overwhelming, especially on a team like ours, playing third base, hitting third. I mean, it's a big, big deal.
The team is doing everything they can. Shelby helped get us here, and we know that; so we've got her back. She's going to be just fine and everybody's here to back her up because she helped make this happen. So it's just
continuing to keep her confident and stay aggressive. But sometimes, and these hitters can tell you, they have faced pitchers who just kind of got their number and they might have a tough night.
But 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. It's a new pitcher, new experience. So I'm not worried about it. It was something that we wanted to give Javen a crack at.
So now the Sooners advance to a familiar position in the championship series against an SEC opponent. Instead of Alabama, Oklahoma will face a Tennessee team who also advanced to the final with a perfect record.
The two teams are pretty similar when you break them down, with both having dual pitching aces and a balanced lineup with both speed and power.
It should be an excellent match-up with our Sooners obviously looking for some redemption after coming up just short last year in their bid for the program's first national title since 2000.
For the second year in a rwo, the Oklahoma Softball program will be playing for a national championship. The Sooners advanced to the championship series with a 6-2 win over Washington late Sunday night.
Behind a twelve strikeout performance from All-American Keilani Ricketts and their ever reliable offense, Oklahoma finds itself in a familiar position in a best of three series for all the marbles.
We'll have a full recap in the morning, but for now let's just enjoy another win.
Washington staved off elimination earlier today with a win over Michigan and now their reward is getting to face the most dominant team in the sport, our Oklahoma Sooners.
First pitch is scheduled for approximately 8:30 p.m. (CST) and can be seen on ESPN2, but the start time is obviously dependent on the game prior. One can only hope Texas and Tennessee (hey, UT vs. UT!) do not go fifteen innings.
With a win, Oklahoma advances, unblemished, to the championship series. If the Sooners were to lose, these same two teams would face off again Monday in what would then be an elimination game for both teams.
While the players and/or coaches would never admit it, beating Texas in any sport is a heck of a way to spend an afternoon for every person on the planet who considers themselves an OU fan. So for that, Sooner Nation owes this Oklahoma softball team a debt of gratitude for the 10-2 run rule victory we were given on Saturday.
For the second consecutive game, the Sooners fell behind early only to immediately answer the following half inning. Texas took a two run lead in the top half of the third inning after pairing a couple singles and three walks. At the time, Keilani Ricketts was struggling and head coach Patty Gasso even went so far as to have Michelle Gascoigne warming up just in case.
Then it was Oklahoma's turn.
The Sooners answered with six runs of their own in the bottom of the third and took a lead that was never again in jeopardy. The first run coming on a Ricketts RBI double before OU would load the bases with zero outs. Over this same time span, Texas made the unusual decision to pull their senior ace Blair Luna after less than three innings. What this did was put an inexperienced Texas pitcher into a bases loaded situation in arguably the biggest spot of Texas' season. It was a decision that did not pay off. Callie Parsons came through with a clutch two out single and scored two and then something crazy happened.
Brianna Turang came to the plate with two on and two out. She squared to bunt and got it down for what looked like the possible third out of the inning. However the Texas pitcher fielded the ball and threw it past the first basemen. The UT right fielder also misplayed the ball which then rolled all the way to the outfield wall. Well, if you know anything about Turang you know what was going to happen next. She turned a simple bunt and possible out into what amounted to a defacto inside the park home run, obviously courtesy of the error.
Oklahoma would add three more in the fourth inning to make it a 9-2 game. A Brittany Williams sacrifice fly brought home the first, then a Jessica Shults single up the middle brought home the second, and finally another Parsons RBI would end the scoring in the fourth.
Heading into the fifth, the Sooners needed just one more score to put the run rule into effect and the end the game. Lauren Chamberlain lead off the inning with what should have been a harmless fly to right, but the Longhorn right fielder lost the ball in the sun and Chamberlain found herself on third base. At that point it was inevitable the end was near. So near in fact that the very next batter, Georgia Casey, would deliver the knockout blow with a single to right bringing Chamberlain home and ending the ball game.
With the win, Oklahoma is now in a commanding position on their side of the bracket. Whoever they play in their next game (we'll get to that) would have to beat them twice to advance and eliminate the Sooners. At this point we do not know who that team will be, but we know who the three possibilities are. Oklahoma's opponent will either be Washington, Michigan, or Arizona State. The Huskies lost earlier today to Tennessee and UM/ASU will play later tonight with the winner advancing to face UW tomorrow.
No matter who it is, Oklahoma will play at 8:30 p.m. Sunday night on ESPN2.
They hate us.
We hate them more.
No matter the time or place, there is always one constant in this world.
And that is the undeniable fact that.......
The games this evening have been cancelled. We will inform you of tomorrow's schedule as soon as possible. Stay safe, everyone!— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) June 1, 2013
After winning their respective games Thursday night, conference foes and longtime rivals Oklahoma and Texas are set to square off Friday for a Red River edition of the Women's College World Series.
The Sooners took two of three from the Longhorns, in Austin, during the regular season. And they did so with virtually zero production from their top four hitters. Lauren Chamberlain, Shelby Pendley, Keilani Ricketts, and Jessica Shults combined to go 3-for-30 over the three games with both Chamberlain and Ricketts failing to record a single hit. Needless to say that's not going to happen very often. And yet even with their lack of production, Oklahoma still managed to win two of the three games.
The reason (or reasons as it were) they were able to win that series was because of the production from their 7-8-9 hitters. Destinee Martinez, Callie Parsons, and Brianna Turang were the difference in the three games and have played a crucial role for this offense all year long. It's why we told you in our preview just how ridiculous this lineup is and it's because they go a legit nine deep.
While no batting lineup can compare to that of Oklahoma, Texas has an impressive lineup in their own right. Conveniently, they have set their batting order up similar to that of the Sooners with some power and one of the country's top on-base percentages at the top in Taylor Hoagland. Again like Oklahoma, they have their slappers toward the bottom of their lineup to help jump start their offense when the batting order turns over.
But this team will only go as far as their senior ace, Blair Luna, will take them. She started all three games against Oklahoma during the regular season and did not have a great deal of success. Also playing in Oklahoma's favor here is the fact the was forced to throw 120 plus pitches last night in Texas' win over Arizona State.
In fact, the Texas head coach pulled Luna in the seventh for what she said was an "opportunity to give ASU a different look" but what she was really doing was trying to spare Luna's arm of that last inning. Pitch counts don't mean nearly as much in the sport of softball as they do baseball, but Luna has been Texas' workhorse all year long and by this point it's been a long year. It's hard to imagine Luna being 100% fresh for tonight's start and Oklahoma patience will be key for several reasons.
(1) The more pitches Luna throws the better off Oklahoma will be.
(2) Luna's go-to pitch is her rise ball, which is never a strike and which batters rarely catch up to in time. So if they can lay off that pitch, it helps with #1 and eliminates a crucial part of her arsenal.
(3) Luna is prone to walking batters and there is no better lineup on the planet that exploits free passes better than this Oklahoma team.
Obviously these two teams know each other, probably better than any two teams still remaining in the field, so there won't be many surprises tonight. It's going to come down to which pitcher, Ricketts or Luna, has the better stuff.
So are you up for betting against the back-to-back National Player of the Year and one of the most dominant players in the history of the sport?
Yeah, me neither.
First pitch is tentatively scheduled for 8:30 p.m. (CST) and the game can be seen on ESPN.
It may not have been the most conventional Keilani Ricketts no-hitter (her sixth this year, by the way), but a no-hitter nonetheless it was and the first in five years at the Women's College World Series.
The lone Michigan run is obviously somewhat misleading with respect to Ricketts' no-hit performance, but it was the result of one error and a second should have been error that actually allowed the Wolverines to jump out to a 1-0 lead early in the top of the third inning
However, Oklahoma would immediately answer in the home half of the third with four runs of their own and that lead would never again be in jeopardy. Ricketts' final line of seven innings pitched, zero hits, one run allowed (unearned), twelve strikeouts and two walks pretty much says it all. But for those of us who have watched her all year long, there was something different about her Thursday night. She always throws hard, but her pitches seemed to have an extra zip on them. She and this team know this is a business trip for them and their enjoyment will come after they take care of what they need to take care of.
In the meantime, Lauren Chamberlain is ridiculously good. Just needed to be said.
The OU sophomore continued her assault on the sport of softball with a two-run home run in the fourth that almost bounced to the plate, but she went down after it and deposited the ball halfway up the center field stands. The blast was her 28th on the season and 58th of her career (the NCAA record for career home runs is 90).
@soonersoftball I think there is a legit argument that Brianna Turang is the most underrated player in the country. So there's that.— Jordan Esco (@Jordan_Esco) May 30, 2013
I only post this here not to draw attention to myself, but because this drew the attention of several people yesterday on Twitter and Thursday night Turang made me look very smart. Despite batting from the No. 9 hole virtually the entire season, she has been the catalyst for this offense all year long. It's really quite remarkable just how good she is at what she does and how little credit, outside of Norman, she gets for being that good.
The thing that stood out most about this game was Oklahoma's depth. What we told you in our preview was that what makes this team so special offensively is that as an opposing pitcher you never get to catch your breath. From one through nine, every batter is a legitimate threat to create havoc. They are an absolute nightmare to pitch to and we all witnessed Michigan's Sara Driesenga live out that nightmare Thursday evening in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma now advances on to the winner's bracket where they will face conference foe and hated rival, the Texas Longhorns. The game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN.
We should have a preview for tonight's game up later today.
Oklahoma won their opening round game 7-1 over Michigan and their back-to-back National Player of the Year, Keilani Ricketts, threw the first no-hitter in the last five years of the Women's College World Series.
With the win, Oklahoma advances on to the winner's bracket and are set to face off with their hated rival the Texas Longhorns.
We'll have a full recap in the morning as it is way past our bed time right now.
However, before we go....it's 11:40 p.m. in the evening and Texas still sucks.
Oklahoma has been to the Women's College World Series three straight years, and just missed winning it all last season, losing to Alabama in the championship series. This year the Sooners come in No. 1 and plan to stay there.
As you are likely aware, there are several other games taking place Thursday during the opening round of play for this year's Women's College World Series.
In the first game of the opening round, No. 11 Washington managed a 4-3 come from behind victory over No. 14 Nebraska with a run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and then the game winning run in the eighth to end it.
At the time of this post, a fairly substantial upset is brewing with No. 7 Tennessee up 7-2 over No. 2 Florida in the seventh inning with the Gators still due an at-bat to try and tie or win the game.
A little later on in what many have called the most interesting game on the docket is No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Arizona State.
With one major caveat for those not already aware, the evening session is in some jeopardy with some potential bad weather predicted to move into the Oklahoma City area as the evening progresses.
Hopefully we can get both of these games in, but it will be up to Mother Nature. If you want to chat about these other games, feel free to do so here. Assuming the Oklahoma/Michigan game is played, we'll have a separate game thread up for that later tonight.
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