OU blanks Arizona 6-0 in Opening Game of Super Regional

Oklahoma College Softball Keilani Ricketts

OU blanks Arizona 6-0 in Opening Game of Super Regional

NORMAN, -- Arizona left one more runner on base than the University of Oklahoma did in the opening game of the NCAA Super Regional at Marita Hynes Field at the OU Softball Complex Friday. But while the Wildcats stranded 10 runners to OU’s nine, the Wildcats (38-18) never scored as OU scored six times in blanking the Wildcats before a crowd of 1,323 to take a 1-0 lead in one of eight Super Regionals being held this weekend.

The win was OU’s seventh in a row and 11th in the past 13 games heading into Saturday’s second game (11 a.m. Central Standard time). If OU wins, it will advance to the Women’s College World Series next week in Oklahoma City. An OU defeat will force the if necessary game at about 1:30 p.m. OU (49-8) collected eight hits off losing pitcher Shelby Babcock (21-10)  who walked four batters and hit three others in going the distance. Babcock had control problems throughout the game and got into trouble in the bottom of the first inning. She hit Georgia Casey with her first pitch and things proceeded to get worse from there as OU scored twice.  Destinee Martinez got aboard on a bunt single, setting the stage for Laura Chamberlain. Chamberlain smashed a two-run double to right center, scoring Casey and Martinez ahead of her before Babcock got the next three batters in order to end the inning.

“I just wanted to come up big for them, they worked hard to get on,” said Chamberlain after Casey and Martinez got on with no outs.  Chamberlain expanded the OU lead to 3-0 in the second inning when Babcock walked her with the bases loaded, on a 3-2 count, bringing across Brianna Turang who was hit by a pitch to start the inning.

“Laura opening it up with a hard shot to right center, set the tone. It was very important that we came out first,” said OU Head Coach Patty Gasso.

OU expanded its lead to 4-0 in the third inning on Javen Henson’s bloop single, scoring catcher Jessica Shults, who had doubled to open the inning. OU’s final two runs came on solo homers. Katie Norris hit her fourth of the season over the left field fence with one out in the fifth inning and winning pitcher Keilani Ricketts (32-7) smashed her 16th round tripper into the bleachers in left center with two out. The two homers increased OU’s season total to 93, two behind national leader New Mexico.

Although the Wildcats had runners on against Ricketts in every inning but one, (fifth) she prevailed and allowed seven hits, all singles, in going the distance. She walked two and struck out nine in hurling her 28th complete game and her 14th shutout of the season. The loss ended Arizona’s four-game win streak and it was the fifth time this season the Wildcats have been shutout.

“They got runners on (base) every inning, it was tough getting out of those situations but the defense came up with key plays,” said Ricketts after throwing 130 pitches on a windy hot afternoon.

“I thought overall we played a very, very strong game. I felt like this team, offensively, had a good approach,” said Gasso. “We just stayed on it. I felt a little bit of nerves from some of our younger players, but as the game went on I could see they were starting to get over it. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic game on the mound. To be able to shut out a team like Arizona is really special because they are such a dynamic offense. It was just a well-played overall game.”

Arizona, which has played from behind most of the season, also wasn’t playing without its starting first baseman (Jessica Springer, back injury) and shortstop Shelby Pendley was weakened after throwing up last night after dinner and had an IV before Friday’s game. 

“I‘m not one to make excuses, but when you get into this situation at this time of the year, you have to put your best defense out there, your best offense out there and the best pitcher in the circle,” Arizona Head Coach Mike Candrea said. “And today we had to make some switches in our defense that I think did not help us. But when you don’t score runs, it’s hard to point your finger at anything, other than getting beat.”

"It’s going to be rough, and it’s going to really test how our team is," Arizona third baseman Brigette Del Ponte said. "I think we’re excited to prove everyone wrong."