Sooners move into WCWS winner's bracket

OKLAHOMA CITY — For the first time since 2004, the Sooners are on the winner's side at the Women's College World Series, as they knocked off the South Florida Bulls 5-1 Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the 2012 WCWS at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

"Glad to have it over with; I'll say that," said OU head coach Patty Gasso. "Just tough to get started right out of the chute. But I think we were excited to get it over with and not sit around and wait all day and watch games and have that anxiety. So, I'm glad we had this first game."

First baseman Lauren Chamberlain provided the pop with a mammoth blast to dead center, the rest of the Sooners finally got to sensational USF starter Sara Nevins after she held them hitless through the first three innings and Sooner starter Keilani Ricketts was Keilani Ricketts with seven more strong innings and just an unearned run.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, OU center fielder Destinee Martinez led off with a single to right, and Chamberlain then drilled a 1-1 fastball over the wall into a strong headwind for a two-run homer and OU's first lead, one it would not relinquish.

"I think what I loved about our team is, once they scored, that Destinee Martinez found a way to get on," Gasso said. "Lauren Chamberlain stepped up, and we answered immediately."

Safe to say it's one of her hardest hit balls of the season.

"I was struggling a little bit in my first at-bat on just trying catching up to her speed," Chamberlain said. "Getting a little jammed on it, but tried to keep the same approach of just getting a good pitch and putting a good swing on it. So, second time around, I didn't want to get cheated."

Ricketts kept the Bulls off the board the rest of the way, as she fanned 11, allowing just three hits and a walk all day.

"I think I was just sticking with my game plan," Ricketts said. "You know, in Super Regionals, we stuck with the game plan and just let the little things go and keep going with it. And that's what works.

"And I think this game, you know, I was just confident in my pitches on both sides of the plate and just had to keep sticking with the game plan, no matter what."

The Sooners got back to work offensively in the sixth.

Chamberlain doubled, then Ricketts tripled her home.

And they weren't done yet.

Catcher Jessica Shults, playing in the WCWS after missing it last year with an illness, reached on one of her two walks and then left fielder Brianna Turang ripped an RBI single to left center to score her.

Pinch hitter Brittany Williams managed a bases loaded walk to put OU up at its final margin of 5-1.

And with all of that, OU is now just two victories away from the WCWS Championship series and a perfect 6-0 in the postseason, moving into the winner's bracket round at 6 p.m. Friday against the winner of LSU-California.

"We'll be looking at a lot of video and watching the games tonight and developing our game plan for whoever it is that we're going to face," Gasso said.

Ricketts earns her 34th win of the season to seven setbacks, while Nevins, the ace on the nation's lowest ERA pitching staff in the country, falls to 31-7.

Chamberlain finished 2-for-3 with two RBI, while USF shortstop Kourtney Salvarola, who put her team up 1-0 on an RBI single to right center in the top of the fourth, was 1-for-3.

The Bulls fall to the loser's bracket against the loser of LSU-California and will play at 12 p.m. Saturday.

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