NORMAN — Keilani Ricketts didn’t waste any time as she began her final postseason at Marita Hynes Field. The senior opened with her signature fastball to Marist’s leadoff batter Maureen Duddy. It sailed past for strike one. So she repeated the pitch twice more.
It was a fitting start to Ricketts’ final NCAA tournament in the circle, and the Sooners’ eventual 17-0, five-inning victory was fitting for a team that has drawn praise as possibly one of the best ever assembled.
Not that Ricketts, who like all the Sooners, claims to not look far ahead, looked at it that way.
“I wasn’t thinking about all that,” she said. “I was just thinking about how excited we were to start this postseason journey. We’re excited because of how we finished last year, and it’s a hard journey to get to that game.”
“That game” is the NCAA championship where the Sooners fell to Alabama in last year’s title game. This time around, the Sooners gave Ricketts exactly the kind of start she was hoping for to change things.
OU (48-4) dominated from the start. After Ricketts retired Marist (30-25) in order to open the game, the Sooners immediately went to work at the plate. Lauren Chamberlain singled and Georgia Casey followed that up with a double. Shelby Pendley then walked and brought Ricketts to the plate, who helped her own cause by singling in three runs and igniting what would be an eight-run first inning.
Not that Ricketts would need much help in that cause. She went three innings, allowing just one hit while earning seven of her nine outs by way of the strikeout. After OU pushed the lead to 17-0 in the third inning, Michelle Gascoigne entered in relief of Ricketts and struck out another five batters to secure the six outs needed to complete the game.