OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - When Patty Gasso, in her 19th season as head coach at Oklahoma, says it's the greatest game she's been a part of, you know you witnessed something special.
Lauren Chamberlain's two-run home run in the bottom of the 12th capped an epic, three-run comeback and the Oklahoma softball team took game one of the best-of-three Championship Series of the 2013 Women's College World Series with a 5-3 win over Tennessee on Monday night.OU goes for its second national championship in program history on Tuesday night with first pitch set for 7 p.m. on ESPN.
After 10 scoreless innings, each team scored three runs in the 11th before Chamberlain's blast capped the longest postseason game in school history and the longest WCWS championship game or championship series game since 1984 when UCLA beat Texas A&M, 1-0, in 13 innings to win the title.
"I really don't even know what to say," Gasso said. "That was one of the most amazing comebacks I've ever seen. I can't imagine. I mean, it's nervous on the field, I can't imagine how people felt watching it. But this is a team on a mission, and, man, I've never seen anything like it."
The Lady Vols' Jordan Shipman hit a three-run home run in the top of the 11th, but Oklahoma rallied in the bottom of the frame to keep the game going.
With one out in the 11th, senior Keilani Ricketts skied a popup that turned into a wind-aided double as the ball bounced off Lauren Gibson's glove at second base. Junior Brittany Williams then drove a double into the gap in right center to drive home Ricketts and get the Sooners on the board.
Down to their final out, junior Destinee Martinez ripped a triple to deep center field on a 2-2 count to score sophomore Erica Sampson, who was running for Williams. That was followed by sophomore Callie Parsons who doubled to left center on an 0-2 pitch to plate Martinez and set the stage for Chamberlain.
"I think we just looked at each other and looked at these guys and said just find your way on," Gasso said. "That was just the whole motto the whole way. Talking to each one of these guys up here, `find your way on, get yourself on, find your way on.' That's all we talked about - find your way on.
"There is a runner at third base and I'm saying `don't worry about the RBI, find your way on. If you're going to find your way on, you're probably going to get an RBI.' But they didn't care about that. It was just be selfless and find your way on, find your way on."
Senior Brianna Turang started the 12th with a chopped double down the left field line. That brought Chamberlain to the plate. On the first pitch she saw, Chamberlain turned on the ball and drove it just inside the foul pole down the left field line.
It was her 30th home run of the season and 60th of her career. She joins Arizona's Laura Espinoza (1994 - 30, 1995 - 37) as the only players in NCAA Division I History to have multiple 30-homer seasons.
"I knew Ellen [Renfroe] had success with me in the past few at-bats before that," Chamberlain said. "I was just trying to make an adjustment, clear my hands a little bit. I felt like I was missing the whole game, so I felt due. But at the same time, I'm so proud of my team. I can't even talk about myself right now, I'm just so proud of my team."
The game's ending, which featured eight runs in the last two innings, looked nothing like the early portions of the contest, which was a terrific pitchers' duel between Ricketts and Renfroe.
Both pitchers threw complete games, setting career highs for innings pitched. They were able to keep the opposition off the board for 10 scoreless innings, working their way in and out of jams. Ricketts elevated her record to 35-1 on the year, while Renfroe dropped to 19-5. Ricketts struck out 13, her third double-digit strikeout effort in four WCWS games, and allowed three runs on five hits with six walks.
Renfroe also struck out 13, but gave up five runs on 10 hits and three walks.
"Ellen did a great job battling our hitters," Ricketts said. "And we struggled off her the entire game until the end, but I was just trying to get my team in there, because I knew they were going to come around. Even if we hadn't come around in the first 10 innings, or 11 - I don't know how many we went -- I just believed in them, and that's what we had to do if we wanted to put ourselves in the best chance to succeed."
In the top of the eighth, Tennessee looked as though it may get the game's first run.
The Lady Vols put two runners on with just one out following an error, sacrifice bunt and four-pitch walk. Ricketts battled pinch-hitter Rainey Gaffin to a full count before finishing her off with a strikeout. The inning then closed when Raven Chavanne lined out to sophomore Jessica Vest at shortstop.
OU had a chance of their own in the ninth, loading the bases with one out. Senior Jessica Shults grounded to first and Melissa Brown fired home to get the force out before junior Destinee Martinez struck out to send the game to the 10th.
Both teams got runners into scoring position in the 10th, but Ricketts struck out Tory Lewis with two on to end the top of the frame and Renfroe got sophomore Georgia Casey to pop out to first base with senior Brianna Turang on second.
"I think it was nerve-racking and the nerves were there because this is the championship series," Chamberlain said. "It's supposed to be a game like that. I was just -- we were honestly just trusting our training. Glory to God for giving us patience and trust knowing that it was going to fall and knowing that Keilani was going to keep working her hardest for us on the mound, as well."
Oklahoma had the game's first scoring chance in the third inning when Turang reached on a fielder's choice and Chamberlain laced a double into the gap in left center to extend her hit-streak to a career-best 15 games. However, a pop out to third base in foul territory kept the game scoreless.
The Sooners put another pair of runners on in the fourth when Ricketts put down a bunt single and then stole second base, her ninth swipe in nine attempts this year. Shults worked the count to 3-1 after Ricketts before Tennessee issued the intentional walk. Martinez followed with a sharp liner but Chavanne made a great diving stab at third base to catch the final out of the inning.
Tennessee got its first baserunner of the game in the fifth inning when Shipman drew a four-pitch walk to start the inning, but she was quickly erased when Shults threw down to sophomore Georgia Casey at first base to pick her off. Two more walks gave the Lady Vols their first scoring threat of the game, but Ricketts got Melissa Brown to hit into a 1-4-3 double play to keep the game knotted at 0-0.
"The fight that these guys had, and looking at Ellen and Keilani's numbers and they're almost identical throughout their line. The amount of pitches they threw, the strikeouts were the same," Gasso said. "It was such a match-up for the ages. I thought, again, it's the best game I've ever been a part of. To be on this side and to see how this all transpired is something that right now I can't remember, but I will never forget. If that makes sense."