Keilani Ricketts made a strong case to be named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year on Saturday. The Oklahoma pitcher was outstanding for the second straight game leading the Sooners to a 7-1 win over Arizona to sweep the Norman Super Regional at Marita Hynes Field.
Oklahoma advanced to the Women’s College World Series with the victory and recorded its second straight Super Regional win over the Wildcats to make its seventh appearance in the WCWS.
Turning point: The Sooners scored five runs in the first inning to blow the game wide open and give Ricketts a sizable cushion throughout much of the contest.
Player of the game: Ricketts. The junior was simply dominant on Saturday, allowing one hit in the first five innings and striking out 13 batters in the complete game win. At one point, she struck out nine straight batters.
Ricketts, one of three finalists for the USA player of the year award, also got the scoring started with a bases loaded RBI single in the first inning. She allowed one run in 14 innings pitched to earn both wins for the Sooners.
Player of the game not named Ricketts: Jessica Shults. The sophomore catcher was 2 for 3 with a home run, 2 RBI and one stolen base in the win. She also did a terrific job managing Ricketts pitches from behind the plate.
Unsung hero of the Super Regional: Brianna Turang. The speedy outfielder was 3 for 5 in the two games and had three stolen bases for the Sooners. She consistently put pressure on the Wildcats defense.
Stat of the game: One walk. While Ricketts struck out 13 Wildcat batters, she only walked one batter. Her command of her pitches was outstanding.
What it means: The Sooners will play in the WCWS in Oklahoma City, Okla., beginning May 31 when they face the winner of the Hofstra/South Florida Super Regional.
Quotable: “They’ve got the ingredients you need... strong pitching, strong offense.” -- Arizona coach Mike Candrea on the Sooners chances in the WCWS.
“We’re playing our best softball right now.” -- OU coach Patty Gasso.
“She went out there and knew what she wanted to do. She didn’t want to be denied. She was lights out today.” -- Shults on Ricketts pitching performance.
“Last year our goal was to get to the World Series, you could tell by our celebration. This year, we made our goal bigger.” -- Ricketts.
“It’s a good feeling as a coach. You don’t have to say much because they’re on the same page. They get it, all of them, freshman to seniors. There’s no animosity, no pouting.” -- Gasso on her team’s chemistry and confidence.