— Editor's Note: Earlier versions of this story contained information from an inaccurate tournament bracket provided by the Associated Press. Those errors have been corrected below.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Everything is falling into place for Oklahoma.
After what happened Friday night at Hall of Fame Stadium, the Sooners are going to have a hard time to avoid playing for a national championship beginning Monday night. There’s no other way to describe it after fourth-ranked OU’s 3-0 victory over No. 1 Cal.
Once again, junior pitcher Keilani Ricketts was fantastic in the circle. She struck out 16 and allowed two hits. In the game’s most important frame, she even overcame a very questionable decision from her coach.
At the plate, the Sooners were not prolific, but effective enough. They only put five hits together, but one of them was an RBI double from freshman phenom Lauren Chamberlain that plated the only run they would need and another was a home run from Georgia Casey, who interrupted a postseason slump to offer a huge bit of insurance with a shot that very nearly cleared the left-field bleachers.
Who drove the other run home?
Ricketts, on a bases loaded walk, a consequence of Cal pitcher Jolene Henderson treating her a little too carefully.
The Sooners have the day off today. Sunday, they’ll have two chances to win one game against Cal, Tennessee or Oregon to reach the best-of-three series that will crown the national champion.
They are close
It began with Ricketts.
“She throws the ball hard and … she paints the corners,” Cal second baseman Jace Williams said. “Her change-up was on. It was dropping off the table … She came out and threw a great ballgame.”
Ricketts saved her very best for two jams that easily could have produced a very different game.
In the second inning, she led off by issuing one of her two walks to Franci Echavarria, who was followed by Williams, whose chopper single put two on with nobody out. Ricketts responded by striking out Breana Kostreba and Danielle Henderson, then got Victoria Jones to line weakly out.
A bigger moment arrived in the bottom of the sixth when Sooner coach Patty Gasso chose to intentionally walk Valerie Arioto — and her 23 home runs — with one out and a runner at second base, despite the fact it would bring the tying run to the plate.
The situation was made dicier when Jamie Reid pulled off a delayed steal on the fourth ball to Arioto, putting runners at the corners; and dicier still when Arioto swiped second, putting two runners in scoring position with one out.
Ricketts ended the threat by striking out Echavarria and Williams.
“I was just hitting my spots,” she said.
At the plate, Chamberlain delivered in the third inning with her third extra-base hit of the World Series, plating Casey, who walked. The Sooners wound up leaving the bases loaded, but at least they had the lead.
In the fourth, a two-out walk to Chamberlain loaded the bases. Next up, Henderson nibbled at the corners before walking Ricketts, therefore bringing home Destinee Martinez.
Casey led off the sixth with her 10th home run of the season.
“Offensively, our team just did a great job of finding ways to get on (base),” Gasso said. “If there’s any turn to the story, it’s that we left too many runners on base. But at this point, it’s just finding ways to score, and that’s ultimately what it’s about.”
It’s enough to have the Sooners sitting pretty, in a place they haven’t been since they last won it all 12 years ago.
“The hard part’s over,” Gasso said.
The most fun part may remain.
Game 5 — Oklahoma 3, California 0
Game 6 — Alabama 2, Arizona State 1
Game 7 — S. Florida (50-13) vs. LSU (39-24), 11 a.m.
Game 8 — Tennessee (52-13) vs. Oregon (44-17), 1:30 p.m.
Game 9— Arizona State (52-10) vs. Game 7 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 10 — California (57-6) vs. Game 8 winner,8:30 p.m.
Game 11 — Oklahoma (52-8) vs. Game 9 winner, noon
Game 12 — Alabama (57-7) vs. Game 10 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 13 — Winner 11 vs. loser 11 (if necessary), 6 p.m.
Game 14 — Winner 12 vs. Loser 12 (if necessary), 8:30 p.m. (unless no Game 11)