NORMAN — It’s a rematch on tap today at Marita Hynes Field.
Top-ranked Oklahoma will face No. 24 Arkansas in the NCAA softball regional championship a day after downing the Razorbacks 10-5 in the second round of the regional tournament.
OU’s win on Saturday, combined with its 17-0 victory over Marist on Friday, advanced the Sooners to the 1 p.m. championship. Arkansas, on the other hand, had to defeat Fordham on Saturday evening after losing to OU in the first game of the day to advance to the final.
Because of the double-elimination format, the Razorbacks will have to defeat OU twice today, with the second game coming at 3:30 p.m. if Arkansas wins the first game.
OU and Arkansas’ game on Saturday was filled with drama. Behind a strong performance from senior pitcher Keilani Ricketts, who was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year earlier in the week, the Sooners jumped out to a 6-1 lead over the Razorbacks before Arkansas staged a late comeback.
The Razorbacks scored four runs in the sixth inning and cut the lead to one run before OU’s Michelle Gascoigne came on in relief of Ricketts and ended the inning with a strikeout.
The Sooners then added four runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning to pull away.
That sent Arkansas into an elimination game Saturday night against Fordham, which defeated Marist earlier in the day. In that game, the two teams went scoreless through three innings before Arkansas broke through in the fourth with a pair of runs on back-to-back singles.
The Razorbacks then added another run on an illegal pitch in the fifth inning. Fordham cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth inning, but Arkansas added to more in the final frame on its way to the 5-2 win.
That set up today’s rematch, with the winner advancing to the super regional next week.
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso characterized Saturday’s game with Arkansas as a “battle” and expected the same from the Razorbacks today.
“Everyone fought,” she said. “Arkansas came ready to play and they were attacking at the plate. It’s a good battle between two good teams.”