"I just thought it was a hard-fought game," said OU head coach Patty Gasso. "We came out ready to play as did Arizona State. We knew it was going to be a battle. They are just a tremendous team defensively, offensively and pitching. They're just a complete team, and I felt like we could play with them."
They certainly had their chances.
The Sooners had at least a base runner in every inning and left one on in every inning but the sixth.
They had hits in the first, third, fifth and seventh and also drew a pair of walks and hit by pitches throughout the game.
Still, OU just had one run to show for it, although it was about two inches away from being a two-run blast.
After ASU first baseman Mandy Urfer ripped a two-RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0 Sun Devils in the bottom of the fourth, Sooner right fielder Haley Nix stepped up to the plate in the fifth with two outs and second baseman Brianna Turang on first.
She smashed a shot to deep right center, which hit off the yellow line at the top of the wall, staying in the park but scoring Turang to cut the ASU lead in half.
"Well, I wasn't really sure," Nix said. "I knew I got it—I popped it up a little bit, but, I mean, I wasn't sure. So, I was just running, and, of course, you know, it was a little short. But that's the way it goes."
A batter later, Ricketts smashed one to ASU third baseman Krista Donnenwirth, who put it away for the third out.
That set the stage for another huge moment in the bottom of the fifth.
Sun Devils shortstop Katelyn Boyd, a .437 hitter coming into the contest, blasted the first pitch of the fifth into the left center field seats to extend the lead to 3-1.
From there, ASU pitcher Dallas Escobedo and the Sun Devil defense did the rest.
After beaning Sooner third baseman Dani Dobbs, she induced a line-out double play to third to end the sixth, as Donnenwirth quickly caught it and whipped it over to first, and Escobedo prevented a hit-by-pitch from turning into anything in the top of the seventh.
"It is an outstanding defense," said ASU head coach Clint Meyers. "I mean, and again, you reap through your rewards of the hard work that you put into it. Krista's an outstanding third baseman. I've been coaching 35 years, both men and women, and Krista Donnenwirth is the best third baseman I've ever coached."
The Sooners flashed some solid defense of their own, especially early in the game, when Turang, shortstop Javen Henson and first baseman Chana'e Jones hooked up for a 4-6-3 double play to squash an ASU base runner in the bottom of the first.
But, in the end, it was just ASU that executed more offensively along with their good defense.
Because of that, OU falls into a loser's bracket game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against the loser of the Missouri-Florida game.
"This team, we sat together after the game and we talked about what would we do different, how would we do it different because we need to take this opportunity and learn from it," Gasso said. "It's been awhile, and we've got young players, so we're not going to ignore it.
"We're going to talk about it, and we're going to fix it, fix it in a way that it's going to help us come out and stay in this tournament from Saturday as long as we can in hopes that we can get playing on Monday and Tuesday. It's going to be a long road, but we've talked about how we would have the best chance of doing that."
If OU wins its first game Saturday, it would play again at 8:30 p.m. before needing a pair of wins on Sunday to move to the best-of-three championship series.
Ricketts (L, 29-14): 6 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4K
Escobedo (W, 33-3): 7 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6K
Nix: 3-for-3, RBI
Turang: 1-for-3, R
Urfer: 1-for-3, 2 RBI
Boyd: 1-for-2, RBI, RLink to Postgame Press Conference