Oklahoma is making its second-straight trip to the Women's College World Series and seventh appearance overall. The Sooners snapped a four-game losing streak in Oklahoma City with yesterday's victory over the Bulls. A native of Torrance, Calif., head coach Patty Gasso, who is in her 18th season at Oklahoma, guided the Sooners to the National Championship in 2000.
One of the many highlights of tonight's contest between Cal and Oklahoma will be the matchup of two of the top players in the nation in USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalists Valerie Arioto of Cal and Keilani Ricketts of Oklahoma. Ricketts edged Arioto for the award, which was announced Tuesday evening in Oklahoma City.
The Sooners' junior standout leads Oklahoma offensively with a .413 batting average and pitching with a 0.99 earned run average. Her ERA and strikeouts (404) rank third in the nation this season. Ricketts improved to 34-7 on the year after posting 11 strikeouts in the win over USF yesterday. She has now pitched 33 straight innings without allowing an earned run.
Freshman first baseman Lauren Chamberlain has also starred for Oklahoma offensively. She recorded her 28th home run of the season yesterday which is tied for the ninth-most home runs in a season in NCAA history. Chamberlain entered the Women's College World Series with a .352 batting average.
Oklahoma has played four games against Pac-12 opponents this season with a record of 3-1 in those contests. The Sooners dropped a 5-0 decision to Stanford in Palm Spring, Fla. back in February before defeating Oregon State (6-0), and Arizona twice (6-0 and 7-1) in the Norman Regional and Super Regional, respectively.
Cal and Oklahoma have met five times previously in the postseason, with the Golden Bears owning a 4-1 all-time lead in the postseason series between the schools. Cal and Oklahoma met three-consecutive years in the Women's College World Series from 2002-04 with Cal winning all three of those contests. The Bears' only loss to the Sooners in the Women's College World Series came in 2000 as OU defeated Cal 2-1 en route to the NCAA title. In the next matchup, Cal earned a 4-2 win over OU in 2002 en route to the Bears' National Championship.
Cal and Oklahoma last met on Feb. 20, 2010 as the Sooners used a six-run fifth-inning to defeat the Bears, 12-1. Ricketts earned the complete-game victory while then-freshman Jolene Henderson (Cal's likely starter tonight) pitched four innings in the loss.
Cal's 5-2 victory over Oklahoma in the 2003 Women's College World Series was head coach Diane Ninemire's 700th career victory.