By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma pitcher Keilani Ricketts was not at her best on Sunday. The defending USA Softball Player of the Year didn’t give up a run in her two and two-thirds innings of work, but she was far from the dominant pitcher who tossed a no-hitter last week.
Ricketts gave up just two hits, but she walked three batters and clearly lacked the control she normally displays.
After Arkansas put two runners on in the third inning, coach Patty Gasso pulled Ricketts in favor of Gascoigne, who worked out a bases-loaded jam for the second straight day.
The move came before Arkansas put any runs on the board, a change from Saturday when Gasso waited until the Razorbacks had put several on the board before moving to Gascoigne.
Coach Patty Gasso blamed the struggles on a timing issue, saying Ricketts couldn’t find her rhythm and her release point. She also downplayed the significance of Ricketts’ struggles, saying she’ll be ready to go for next weekend’s super regional.
“It was just a timing issue, and she probably could have worked it out in the bullpen if we needed her to,” Gasso said. “But we thought it was better for our team if we just brought Michelle in, and she just thrives on that stuff. But the pitching staff is fine.”
Patience pays off for OU: Patience at the plate keyed the Sooners to their big third inning on Sunday.
Up 1-0 in a tight ballgame, the rally started with Brittany Williams, who drew a walk on four straight pitches. That brought to the plate senior Jessica Shults, who after falling behind in the count 1-2, fought back to force a full count before drawing a second consecutive walk.
Callie Parsons then came to the plate with two outs and flied a ball deep to right field on what seemed to be a routine popup. But the ball bounced out of the right fielder’s glove, putting OU on top 3-0.
Another walk to Brianna Turang then set the stage for Chamberlain, who fouled off several balls while waiting for the right pitch. It came on a full-count fastball, and Chamberlain skied it to center field, where it cleared even the TV tower for the three-run bomb.
Stranded runners haunt Razorbacks: Arkansas had its chances early against the Sooners. Twice the Razorbacks loaded the bases before coming up early, as they stranded seven runners in the first three innings.
The Razorbacks put two runners on in the first inning with no outs before Keilani Ricketts fanned the next two hitters. A walk loaded the bases but the Sooners forced a groundout to end the inning.
Arkansas loaded the bags again in the third inning after Michelle Gascoigne came in to relieve Ricketts. But Gascoigne, who was the hero after earning a bases-loaded strikeout on Saturday, again bailed out the Sooners, forcing a groundout to end the inning.
Pendley breaks out of slump: Big 12 Player of the Year Shelby Pendley was having a difficult regional weekend before Sunday. The sophomore was hitless in Friday and Saturday’s victories despite making solid contact.
She broke that slump emphatically on Sunday, blasting a solo home run over right field to lead off the fourth inning.
She came to bat later in the frame and singled in another run on her way to finishing 2 for 4 on the day with three RBIs.
Texas A&M awaits Oklahoma: The Sooners will face the Aggies in this weekend’s Super Regional. Texas A&M (42-16) run ruled Baylor in five innings in the second game of the regional championship Sunday to advance to Norman for the best-of-three series.
The Aggies haven’t played the Sooners since moving to the SEC this season, where they finished 10-13. A&M swept the season series against the Arkansas squad that OU defeated on Sunday to advance.
It is the fourth year in a row OU has advanced to the Super Regional and the sixth time in seven years. Times and dates for the series aren’t yet determined.
Follow me @Chosler88