By Clay Horning
NORMAN – As Oklahoma’s players locked arms around the pitching circle, coming together for what passed as a celebration following Saturday’s 7-1 NCAA Super Regional-clinching victory over Arizona, three gloves remained near second base.
One was just in the outfield grass, one was near the bag and the other was a few feet toward third base. So maybe three Sooners threw their gloves in the air after Keilani Ricketts got Karissa Buchanan to bounce into the game’s final out.
There was, however, no huge outpouring. There was no show of outsized relief nor gratification for what they had done. Because all they had done was exactly what they thought they would do.
Later, Ricketts, Lauren Chamberlain and Jessica Shults, the murderers’ row that is the meat of OU’s batting order, were asked if they made plans to handle reaching a second straight Women’s College World Series so coolly.
“It just kind of happened,” said Chamberlain, who hit her 27th home run in the sixth inning, one inning after Shults hit her 19th.
Or didn’t happen.
“You didn’t see a lot of dogpiling out there,” Sooner coach Patty Gasso said. “I think it’s because this team knows there’s one dogpile they’re saving it for.”
That’s what it looks like.
A year ago, the Sooners were built to make a splash and did so by topping Arizona back-to-back in Tucson to reach the World Series for the first time since 2004.
This time, they’re built for more.
Ricketts proved it in the circle.
“Last year, when we made it to the World Series, we were celebrating and it was kind of like we didn’t know what to do once we got to the World Series,” she said. “This year, we made our goal bigger to try to do better than last year and I think we’re ready to keep it.”
Saturday, she allowed three hits, walked only one and struck out 13, including a run of nine straight that began in the second inning just as Arizona opened its first and only super regional frame by getting its first two batters aboard. All of that, and her earned run average dropped to 0.99. The only run she allowed was unearned.
A power pitcher, she had the Wildcats waving at breaking balls they could hardly reach.
“She went out there and knew what she wanted to do,” said Shults, her catcher. “She was out there and didn’t want to get denied. I think the team really felt that.”