Sooners advance to WCWS

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma City, here the Sooners come: the Crimson and Cream have punched their second consecutive ticket to the Women's College World Series, sweeping the Arizona Wildcats in the Super Regional round with a 7-1 victory Saturday at Marita Hynes Field.

It marks the first time since the 2003-04 seasons in which they've taken consecutive trips to the pinnacle of college softball at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

"I just can't tell you how proud I am of this team to have come so far and work so hard to get here," said OU head coach Patty Gasso. "And knowing that our season is still [going]--we're playing our best softball right now--and to know what's ahead of us and know that we're playing our best right now is really, really exciting."

Like game one in this best-of-three series, the Sooners jumped on their Pac-12 foe early.

The first six Sooners reached base safely, and as part of that, pitcher Keilani Ricketts helped her own cause with an RBI single into left center that put OU up 1-0.

Catcher Jessica Shults and right fielder Erica Sampson forced bases loaded walks and hit-by-pitches, respectively, to make it 3-0.

After Arizona finally recorded an out, designated player Katie Norris grounded a ball that Wildcat third baseman Brigette Del Ponte could not handle, and two more Sooners scored to give OU a 5-0 lead before Arizona even got a chance to swing the bat.

"I definitely think it's been our mentality all year," Shults said. "I mean, we've always worked getting that first lead and when we score first, good things happen. I mean, it just kind of takes that weight off your shoulders in the first inning when you get on first. I mean, it opens things up for you."

Shults and first baseman Lauren Chamberlain added solo homers in the fifth and sixth for OU, respectively, and it became 7-0 after 5 1/2.

Meanwhile, Ricketts cruised, and really cruised.

At one point in the contest, though she claimed she didn't realize it at the time, Ricketts fanned nine straight batters, striking out 13 overall en route to picking up her 33rd win of the season to just seven setbacks.

"I think I'm more aware of just hitting my spots and just being able to find those corners," Ricketts said.

In the process, she lowered her ERA back under one.

Arizona finally got on the board--albeit, on an unearned run--and avoided getting shut out in the series when Sooner third baseman Javen Henson booted a ball of her own, scoring Wildcat center fielder Karissa Buchanan.

Shults and Ricketts paced the Sooner offense, going 2-for-3 each with three combined RBI.

Chamberlain, who hit the home run along with Shults, had an RBI and two runs scored.

"It's almost just the mentality like, 'Don't let them off the hook,'" Chamberlain said. "I mean, we get our runners on before us and, you know, they're working like I said yesterday, they're working so hard to get on. And they're executing so much, so it's just coming up big for them."

Arizona managed just two hits, one each from Buchanan and catcher Lini Koria.

"She [Ricketts] worked us in a lot more than yesterday," Koria said. "We did our homework on her yesterday and we were expecting her to go a little bit more away, but she did a really good job adjusting and got ahead of us with her off speed. But we could have done a better job at being disciplined, but I tip my hat off to her because she went after everybody and she didn't quit."

Pitcher Kenzie Fowler, tagged with the loss, fell to 15-9 on the year.

While OU, winners of their 50th game on Gasso's 50th birthday, moves on to the WCWS to face the Hofstra-South Florida winner Thursday, Arizona concludes its season at 38-19.

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