Oklahoma defeated Tennessee 4-0 to win the 2013 Women's College World Series, earning the second national championship for the program. The Sooners are only the fifth team to win multiple national titles.
"I cannot tell you how honored I am to be the coach of this team because they're just special, and they know how to win; and they fought, and they were never afraid," head coach Patty Gasso said.
Fittingly, it was seniors Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne who carried the team on Tuesday night. Forming the nation's top pitching duo, it was Gascoigne who got the start in the circle, while Ricketts was making her first start as the designated player in the postseason.
For Gascoigne, it was her first appearance since the Regionals versus Arkansas on May 19 and her first start since May 11 against Oklahoma State. The time off had little to no effect on the Benicia, Calif., native, though. Gascoigne struck out 12 and allowed just three hits while walking none in her ninth shutout of the year. It dropped her nation-leading earned run average to 0.88 and improved her record to 19-3.
"I only found out about three hours before the game, but I was excited," Gascoigne said."After Coach [Melyssa] Lombardi told me, we had to watch film, the pitchers, and adjust.Just with knowing that Keilani was all for it and she was supporting me and she was going to be in the bullpen if I needed her just brought me all the confidence in the world.
"I know my teammates trust me, and that is something that I've always taken out on the mound with me.It's really carried me through this whole season just knowing that they trust me and we've got each other's back."
The move to hold Ricketts, who had started every postseason game prior for the Sooners, proved genius.
"Keilani has had a ton of big moments, and the fact that she was wanting to share this with Michelle, I think probably helped Michelle get on the mound and say, 'I've got this,'" Gasso said.
Tennessee tried to get to Gascoigne early, but Kat Dotson was erased in the first inning after a one-out single as she was caught stealing second by senior Jessica Shults.
The Lady Vols got a runner into scoring position in the second with one out, but junior center fielder Destinee Martinez ran in to make a great sliding catch for the second out. Gascoigne took it from there, retiring the next eight batters, six of which came by strikeout including five in a row at one point.
Like the team had done in three other World Series games this year, Oklahoma scored first in the third inning.
Senior Brianna Turang led off walk and took second when sophomore Lauren Chamberlain extended her hitting streak to a season-best 16 games with a sharp single to left field. Sophomore Georgia Casey advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt, but it wasn't needed as Ricketts smashed a three-run home run to the bleachers in right field.
It was Ricketts' 50th career home run and 15th of the season.
Melissa Davin snapped Gascoigne's streak of outs recorded with one-out single in the fifth, but that would be all the rest of the way for Tennessee as Gascoigne retired the final eight batters of the game in order.
Ricketts added an insurance run in the top of the seventh and picked up her fourth RBI in the process when she grounded out to first base after Chamberlain hit a leadoff triple.
That set the stage for the bottom of the seventh.
Gascoigne started with a swinging strikeout of Raven Chavanne, one of three finalists along with Ricketts and Chamberlain for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Chavanne was held hitless in the two-game series, going 0-9 with six strikeouts. For the second out Tuesday, Madison Shipman grounded out to sophomore Jessica Vest at shortstop.
That brought pinch-hitter Lexi Overstreet to the plate, who was set down on three pitches, including a called strike three on a screwball to end the game and set off a wild celebration in the circle.
The victory was especially sweet for the Sooners, who have tried to serve as a source of joy and pride following the recent tornadoes that have affected the local community.
"We were very, very pleased to represent the University of Oklahoma as well as the state of Oklahoma," Gasso said. "You've heard a lot about it this week, and that is who we were representing. The phrase is 'Moore than ourselves.'We had a lot of people we wanted to give pride to, make happy and just forget about things that have been going on in the last three weeks or so.
"I cannot tell you how honored I am to be the coach of this team because they're just special, and they know how to win; and they fought, and they were never afraid.They bowed up when they needed to together, and they're just a tremendous group of athletes that I love to work with every day."