The Oklahoma Sooners were dead in the water Monday night and then all of a sudden, they weren't.
In a comeback you had to see to believe, the Sooners—down twice to their last strike—rallied from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the 11th inning before a Lauren Chamberlain walk-off home run in the 12th gave Oklahoma an incredible 5-3 win in Game 1 of the Women's College World Series championship series.
Oklahoma's win in the three hour and 50 minute marathon of a game put the Sooners one win away from a national championship they've been pursuing since watching Alabama celebrate the 2012 national title at the Sooners' expense.
An offensive explosion in the last two innings stole the spotlight from what had been a spectacular pitching duel between Oklahoma's Keilani Ricketts and Tennessee's Ellen Renfroe. Throughout the night, the two aces battled strikeout for strikeout, pitch for pitch. Renfroe was terrific, not intimidated in the slightest by the Sooners' powerful lineup. She finished the game with 13 strikeouts, throwing 180 pitches while going the distance for Tennessee.
Ricketts was dominant as usual, giving up just five hits for the game and striking out 13. She did have some control problems, walking six batters for the game and throwing an incredible 188 pitches.
Ricketts seemed to tire in the 11th, giving up back-to-back singles before Madison Shipman came to the plate and blasted a three-run home run to dead center field to give Tennessee a 3-0 lead.
A three-run lead at that point seemed like an insurmountable lead and the partisan OU crowd of 8,300 was stunned by the turn of events and the inability of the potent OU offense to deliver a clutch hit.
Going into the bottom of the 11th, Renfroe had been spectacular, limiting a potent Sooners' offense to four hits while striking out 12. She even worked her way out of a bases loaded, one out jam in the bottom of the ninth to keep the game scoreless.
Maybe it was the pressure of the situation, or maybe it was the fact she was well over 150 pitches for the game, but in the bottom of the 11th, the Sooners bats finally woke up.
After Keilani Ricketts reached second when Tennessee's Lauren Gibson dropped a fly ball, Brittany Williams doubled to bring home Ricketts. After a Jessica Shults groundout, Destinee Martinez came up and was down to her last strike before hitting a triple to center to score pinch runner Erica Sampson from third.
With the score 3-2 in favor of Tennessee, Callie Parsons stepped in and quickly fell behind, 0-2. Parsons then ripped a double to left center to drive in Martinez to tie the game and send the crowd into hysterics. Parsons was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple, but the damage had been done.
The shell-shocked Volunteers couldn't do anything against Ricketts in the top of the 12th, setting the stage for Chamberlain, who blasted a towering fly ball to left field that just cleared the fence to give Oklahoma the win.
In the grand scheme of things, the first 10 innings had almost zero impact on the game. However, in the third inning, Chamberlain launched a double to the wall in left center with Turang on first base. In a surprise move, OU coach Patty Gasso held the speedy Turang on third instead of taking a chance on a close play at the plate. The Sooners couldn't drive a run home and as the game went to extra innings, it looked like Gasso's decision may have been the difference in the game.
Oklahoma almost broke through in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with one out. Once again, the Volunteers defense buckled down, nailing Georgia Casey at the plate for the second out before Renfroe struck out Martinez to end the threat.
The Sooners were twice a single strike away from having to win two straight games to capture a national championship. Now, thanks to an unconquerable will to win, the Sooners sit just one win from a goal they've been chasing all season long.