OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – They shook off the disappointment of last year’s WCWS Championship series loss to Alabama. They entered the 2013 season as the proverbial favorites, topping the USA Today/NFCA Division I Poll for 10 consecutive weeks along the way while taking each opponent’s best shot day-in and day-out.
On Tuesday night at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma, City, Okla., the top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners proved that all those prognosticators who lauded them as the preseason favorite for champion were right on the money as OU finished off its stellar 57-4 campaign by picking up the program’s second national title with a 4-0 shutout victory over seventh-seeded Tennessee (52-12).
Oklahoma designated player Keilani Ricketts (1-for-4, HR) knocked in all four of the Sooners’ runs, registering the biggest blow of the contest on a three-run HR to right during the top of the third inning. First baseman Lauren Chamberlain (2-for-2), third baseman Shelby Pendley (2-for-3) and center fielder Destinee Martinez (2-for-3) each added two of OU’s seven total hits in the match-up. In the circle Michelle Gascoigne improved to 19-3 overall, scattering three hits and striking out 12 during a complete-game effort.
“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,” Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. “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. I told them, if I had a million dollars, I would buy this for you, but I don't have a million dollars so I'm glad that we won it instead. Just couldn't be more pleased. Seeing these seniors go out this way is something that I'll cherish forever.”
Senior Ivy Renfroe took the loss for the Lady Vols, falling to 22-5 on the season after permitting three runs on three hits with two walks and two K’s over just 2.1 innings. Right fielder Kat Dotson, shortstop Madison Shipman and left fielder Melissa Davin contributed the UT offense’s base hits in the contest.
It was an inauspicious start for Ivy Renfroe in the circle to start the contest as the senior hurler walked dangerous first baseman Lauren Chamberlain on four consecutive pitches. The 6-0 right hander wasn’t fazed by the leadoff free pass, however, getting a sacrifice bunt, a strikeout of designated player Keilani Ricketts and a grounder to second from left fielder Brittany Williams to leave a Sooner stranded in scoring position.
Tennessee’s offense received a single from right fielder Kat Dotson with one retired in the bottom of the first. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, a Raven Chavanne strikeout and a caught stealing ended the frame with no damage done.
OU’s Destinee Martinez registered the initial hit of the match-up for the Sooners in the top of the second via a two-out slap single down the left field line. Oklahoma shortstop Jessica Vest made a bid for a hit on a chopper into the hole between first and second. However, a great diving stop by UT’s Gibson and a strong toss on to Melissa Brown covering at first prevented her from joining her teammate on the base paths.
Shipman christened UT’s half of the second in promising fashion by driving a single back through the middle and advancing into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Left fielder Melissa Davin stepped to the dish and hit a blooper to center that threatened to drop in for a hit. Martinez raced in from her defensive position, however, to make a terrific diving grab for a huge second retirement. Gascoigne then followed with a strikeout of designated player Cheyanne Tarango as Tennessee missed a solid chance to post an early advantage.
The Sooners received another leadoff walk, this one issued to right fielder Brianna Turang, beginning the top of the third. That free pass soon came back to haunt UT as Chamberlain turned the situation into a full-blown scoring threat by driving a 2-0 offering through the left side of the infield, placing a pair aboard with still none out. Ricketts stepped to the plate facing a massive opportunity and delivered by absolutely crushing a three-run shot to right as the Crimson & Cream nabbed a 3-0 advantage. Despite a change in the circle as Ellen Renfroe came on in relief of her sister, the OU offensive onslaught continued as third baseman Shelby Pendley blasted a two-out double to left center that hit about halfway up the fencing. A bouncer back to the circle off the bat of catcher Jessica Shults finally ended the outburst but not before OU had put a crooked number on the board.
A leadoff single by Martinez, a Chamberlain walk and a wild pitch put a pair of Sooners in scoring position in the top of the fourth. Oklahoma couldn’t add to its lead, however, as Casey fouled out behind the plate as UT’s Akamine made the catch near the backstop netting.
With Tennessee searching for any sort of offensive spark, Davin tried to provide one in the bottom of the fifth by driving a one-out single through the right side. Gascoigne proved up to the task, once again, posting consecutive strikeouts of Tarango and pinch hitter Rainey Gaffin.
Bidding for some valuable insurance, Chamberlain started the top of the seventh with a towering shot to left. UT’s Haley Tobler drifted back to the wall but got turned around as the ball ricocheted off the top of the wall and back into play for a triple. With one down in the frame, OU would add that valuable tally as Ricketts bounced out to first for a RBI as Chamberlain slid home for a 4-0 lead.
With Tennessee down to one final chance, Gascoigne struck out Chavanne, got Shipman to bounce out to short and K’ed pinch hitter Lexi Overstreet as the Sooners secured the 2013 NCAA Division I National Championship.