Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said on Wednesday the biggest difference between the 2012 Oklahoma-Alabama championship matchup and Thursday night's game was that Keilani Ricketts was no longer in the circle for the Sooners.
However, the other half of 2012's pitching matchup was still in the circle for Alabama, and Jaclyn Traina made all the difference for the Crimson Tide.
Traina threw a one-hitter and Alabama hit two home runs off OU starter Kelsey Stevens as the Sooners fell to the Tide, 6-2 on Thursday night.
With the loss, the Sooners moved to the loser's bracket of the WCWS. They'll take on Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Alabama advances to take on Kentucky at 8:30 p.m. Friday night.
Traina struck out nine batters and walked five over seven innings of work. Her fastball and curveball were too much for the Sooners to handle all night long.
The Sooners' lone hit was a big one, and made it appear Oklahoma would be able to have some success against Alabama. Shelby Pendley hit a solo home run in the top of the first inning to give the Sooners an early, 1-0 lead. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, that's where the positives on offense would end.
Early on, it was the middle third of the Alabama lineup that gave the Crimson Tide a big boost against Stevens. No. 6 batter Marisa Runyon hit an RBI single in the bottom of the second inning to knot the score at one after Kaila Hunt and Molly Fichtner reached base ahead of her.
Oklahoma grabbed another lead in the top of the fourth thanks to poor defense by Alabama. A throwing error on shortstop Danae Hays with two outs put runners at first and second for Javen Henson. Callie Parsons was then hung up between first and second, the result of an apparent botched double steal, but the throw from first baseman Leona Lafaele went into left field, allowing Erin Miller to score from second for a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the frame, the middle of the Alabama lineup struck again. Hunt and Fichtner singled to lead off the inning, and after a fly out from Runyon, Peyton Grantham smacked a three-run homer over the left centerfield fence for a 4-2 Tide lead.
That was plenty of run support for Traina, who got better as the game went along. The Sooners had baserunners in each of the first six innings, but Traina consistently worked around walks to squash any potential Sooners rally.
The top of the Crimson Tide's order finally broke through with some insurance in the bottom of the fifth, as Jadyn Spencer hit a laser over the left centerfield fence for a two-run homer that put Alabama up 6-2 and chased Stevens from the game.
Stevens finished the game having given up seven hits while striking out five against just a single walk.
Oklahoma needs to regroup for Saturday if it wants to extend its season, but if we've learned anything about the Sooners in the second half of the year, they'll have a response ready to Thursday's loss.