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Oklahoma Softball Looks To The Future After Disappointing End To 2012 Season

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Oklahoma head softball coach Patty Gasso said it just wasn't the Sooners' time to capture the program's second national championship.

"We know when it's right," Gasso said. "We'll be back, and it will be ours."

For now, the Sooners will be left to think about what could have been, after dropping a heartbreaking 5-4 decision to the Alabama Crimson Tide, Wednesday night.

The win gave Alabama its first national championship in softball.

"It was really a battle between two excellent teams," Gasso said. "So I congratulate them (Alabama). I know how hard and how long they've wanted it, and they really deserved it."

It was a strange night, as the game didn't begin until 9:55 p.m. due to rain in the Oklahoma City area. When the rain had cleared off, Oklahoma quickly jumped to a 3-0 lead, thanks to a solo shot from Keilani Ricketts, and a two-run homer from Lauren Chamberlain.

However, the rain returned in the fourth inning, and so did the control problems Ricketts experienced the night before.

Alabama scored four runs in the inning, two on wild pitches from Ricketts, and one on an error by shortstop Jessica Vest. The fourth run came on an RBI single from Amanda Locke.

"I didn't realize it was affecting the way I was pitching, even though I was throwing a lot of wild pitches," Ricketts said. "I was just so focused on trying to get through it, even though the rain kept coming down, and it was affecting the way I was pitching."

Chamberlain homered again in the seventh to cut the Tide lead to one, at 5-4, but Ricketts struck out looking to end the Sooners' season.

This has been an unbelievable journey," Gasso said. "Although we didn't get what we wanted, it's an unbelievable journey that I will remember for the rest of my life."

However, the Sooners may not have to wait very long to return to Oklahoma City for another shot at a national championship.

The entire team is back next season, minus utility player Katie Norris, and backup pitchers Kirsten and Allee Allen. With Ricketts back in the circle, and the rest of the Sooners' power-packed offensive lineup back, OU will be on the short list to return to Oklahoma City and contend for a national championship.

Alabama will be hit hard by graduation, but with pitcher Jackie Traina returning, there's no doubt the Tide could be back with a chance to repeat next year.

For OU, the future is extremely bright.

"It's pretty exciting to know we have so many people coming back," catcher Jessica Shults said. "We had a great group of seniors that brought a lot of leadership. It's been a great year."

Indeed it has. The Sooners won the Big 12 and came within a game of winning a second national championship, after being out after the minimum of two games last season.

Next year, the Sooners will be gunning for a national title, and there won't be another option.

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