Keilani Ricketts nears K's record
OKLAHOMA CITY -- National player of the year Keilani Ricketts struck out 16 in a two-hit shutout, Georgia Casey homered and Oklahoma beat top-seeded California 3-0 on Friday night in the winners' bracket at the Women's College World Series.
Lauren Chamberlain drove in the first two runs with a double in the third inning and a single in the fourth. Casey's drive to straightaway center for Oklahoma's NCAA-best 97th home run of the season made it 3-0 in the sixth inning.
Ricketts (35-7) dazzled with a sharp fastball and a biting changeup, keeping the Golden Bears (57-6) off balance throughout the night. She finished two strikeouts shy of U.S. Olympic gold medalist Cat Osterman's World Series record of 18 in a seven-inning game in 2006.
"I just had my adrenaline going in this game and I was hitting my spots," Ricketts said.
The fourth-seeded Sooners (52-8) are off until Sunday, needing one more win in two chances to reach the finals. No. 2 seed Alabama (57-7) moved into a similar spot by beating defending champion Arizona State 2-1.
Amanda Locke hit a tiebreaking home run in the top of the sixth inning and Jackie Traina threw a three-hitter for the Crimson Tide.
California and Arizona State, the No. 3 seed, face elimination games Saturday night and will need three straight wins over the next two days to reach the finals.
"We just did not play our best ball today. We did not hit the ball well, and defensively I don't even remember last time I've seen this team make three errors," Bears coach Diane Ninemire said. "What I do know is that this team is a very strong team, I know that our backs are against the wall, but I know that they'll be able to come back from this."
California's best scoring chance came in the sixth, when Jamia Reid started the inning by reaching on a grounder to third when Chamberlain dropped the throw at first base. The Sooners opted to walk Valerie Arioto, a national player of the year finalist, to bring the tying run to the plate. Reid stole third on the final pitch of Arioto's walk, and Arioto swiped second moments later.
Ricketts then struck out Frani Echavarria swinging and Jace Williams looking to end the inning. She improved to 7-0 this postseason and has allowed only one earned run in 45 innings while striking out 76.
"I think she showed why she's the player of the year," Arioto said. "She did a good job of keeping us off balance. Obviously, we need to do a better job of putting the ball in play."
Pac-12 rival Arizona State (52-10) also struggled to piece together offense, getting only three hits for the second straight night -- this time in a loss.
Traina (39-2) struck out 11 and didn't give up a hit until Sam Parlich grounded an RBI single into right field to put the Sun Devils up 1-0 in the fourth inning. Alabama answered right back with Jennifer Fenton's RBI single in the fifth.
Locke then drilled a full-count pitch from Dallas Escobedo (24-7) into the center-field bleachers to break a 1-all tie in the sixth. She had been hitless in her previous six games, going 0-for-16 before launching her 18th home run.
"Just one pitch changes the game," Escobedo said. "I'm not too upset about it. I'm excited that we're still in it and we can still go strong tomorrow."
Traina retired the Sun Devils in order in the sixth and stranded the potential tying run at second to end the game.
"We're not dead," Arizona State coach Clint Myers said. "We just didn't play well."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press