Sooners eyeing the ultimate prize

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Sooners won their 50th game on head coach Patty Gasso's 50th birthday to send them to the Women's College World Series last Saturday and all they've been able to think about since is their next game.

First, who would they play. Eventually, that team became South Florida.

Then, ‘Will the game ever get here yet?'

It's been a long five days, but the time has finally arrived for the Sooners to make their return trip to the Women's College World Series and they're ready to go.

"We've just been watching a lot of film and we know that they're gonna come out fighting," said catcher Jessica Shults. "They've got a great pitching staff, great offense and we know that they like to do all the little things. So, that's what's gonna win you ball games, so we just gotta be prepared and ready to handle those little things that they're gonna be coming out ready to do."

Freshman sensation first baseman Lauren Chamberlain, who ranks second in the country with 27 home runs and is readying for her inaugural WCWS appearance, seconded that.

"We definitely tried our best to prepare as much as we can," Chamberlain said. "We know that they have a strong pitching staff and we know that their lefty [Sara Nevins]throws hard just like Keilani [Ricketts]. So, it helps that we have two lefty pitchers that can simulate their movement and their speed at the same time. So, that helps a lot.

"And then on their offensive end, we know that they have capabilities of short game, so we've been practicing that a lot in practice, so I think we're pretty prepared."

Not many teams have been able to do to Ricketts this year, no doubt, as she's managed a sub-1.00 ERA and 33 wins.

But one way to get to any pitcher, even if she is the National Player of the Year, is to play some small ball.

Bunts, slap hits, etc., and thus the emphasis for their focus on USF's short game.

One thing the Sooners, too, have been emphasizing this week in preparation is that they're not just here to win a game, or two.

They're here to win five, or six and bring home the title.

"I think the difference is that last year, our biggest goal was to get to the World Series," Ricketts said. "We had a lot of struggles going into postseason. We didn't have our main players playing in postseason. Everyone was out of position, we were just trying to get out on the field and play as hard as we could to get as far as we could get.

"This year, we've grown a lot. We've been having a great year and our team's a lot deeper than last year. With the desire that we had last year and how deep we are this year with our lineup, I think that we are coming into the World Series stronger than we were."

One of those cogs in the middle of the Sooner lineup that's available this time around and wasn't in 2011 is Shults.

The junior, who has a .382 average and 19 homers in 2012, missed the WCWS with an illness last year but provides a nice pop for the Sooners heading into this one.

And she's very anxious for that opportunity.

"Definitely, it was hard watching [last year]," Shults said. "But I was just excited to get the experience last year, so I'm really looking forward to it and just honored that I get to spend it with this team."

Soon, for Shults and the entire team, that anxiousness and anticipation will subside.

It'll be back to action on the diamond.

The Sooners will get their chance to play towards a second national championship in just a matter of hours.

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