Sooners on cusp of second WCWS Title

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Sooners are one victory away from their ultimate goal.

After defeating No. 2 Alabama 4-1 Monday evening, they can claim the Women's College World Series Title with one more triumph over the Crimson Tide at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

"Well, one of the biggest wins in our program's history just happened, and it was very exciting to be a part of," said OU head coach Patty Gasso. "This team is just so confident right now. They just feel it. It's a pleasure to be around them because I have never been so calm and confident and cool, and thinking straight in such a big arena because of them."

Even though they stranded 12 runners.

Even though they got behind 1-0 heading into the fifth inning.

The Sooners were still able to pull out their 12th straight victory and ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament win.

"They just stick with the plan," Gasso said. "That's what's so cool about these guys. They don't get rattled. They don't get fazed by it. They keep staying the course, and they trust it."

Indeed, the Sooners did trail by a run after four thanks to an Alabama sacrifice fly from catcher Kendall Dawson, but back they came.

A couple of hits and a walk positioned OU for catcher Jessica Shults' game-tying sacrifice fly.

Then, left fielder Brianna Turang gave the Sooners their first lead of the night on an RBI groundout.

In the sixth, OU added some insurance.

Shults hit an RBI single into left, and designated player Katie Norris successfully laid down a squeeze bunt.

"Yeah, I didn't think they expected that from Katie Norris just because she's been hitting the ball so hard," Gasso said. "But defensively you could see they were playing for the double play ball, and sometimes you've just got to catch a good team by surprise."

That they did.

Meanwhile, Ricketts was in her typical groove, striking out 12 batters and largely cruising despite OU's inability to score early in the game in key situations.

"I trust that we're going to make it happen just because we're getting runners on base, and that is one of the hardest things to do off [Alabama pitcher] Jackie Traina is get runners on base," Ricketts said. "We all trust that we're going to have something happen to get the runs on the board."

Ultimately, she kept fighting in the circle and that did happen.

On the other side, Alabama just wasn't as fortunate.

"We had the lead there in the bottom of the fourth and I kept saying to myself, ‘Okay, Jackie's going to get on a roll,'" said Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy. "They just really had really good at bats the next two innings. She left some pitches high, but they capitalized. They hit the ball really well tonight."

In all, OU banged out 11 hits and finally came up with a couple timely ones, while Alabama simply couldn't.

The Crimson Tide really had trouble figuring out Ricketts, like most teams have throughout this WCWS.

"I think she's an excellent pitcher," said Tide first baseman Cassie Reilly-Boccia. "And what makes her effective is she's from the left side and throws hard with a lot of movement. That's not something you see every day. So, I think there was an adjustment period. Tonight, I thought we had much better at bats toward the end of the game than we did in the beginning of the game.

"I think that momentum will definitely carry into tomorrow's game. I think we'll be much more prepared to face her tomorrow."

The Sooners (54-8) hope their momentum will carry them to the program's second national title tomorrow night.

After last winning it in 2000, they are just win away from finally doing so again in 2012.

No doubt, victory No. 55 would go down in history should the Sooners get it done Tuesday.

"I think that we're just going to go after it as we've been going after every single game in this World Series," Ricketts said. "Every single game has been tough. We're not going to overlook it. We haven't won that game yet. We know Alabama's going to bounce back and be fighting hard because they don't want their season to end on a loss. We know it's going to be a battle tomorrow."

Game two is set for a 7 p.m. first pitch, with game three slated for 7 p.m. Wednesday if necessary.

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