Friday may have been the team's first game at home, but the No. 1 Oklahoma softball team continued to play just as it did in its first 15 games out West.
Keilani Ricketts struck out 14 and extended her scoreless streak to 30.1 innings as Oklahoma topped Houston, 6-0, in the Sooners' home opener at Marita Hynes Field. It was OU's 11th shutout in 16 games this year and the team earned run average was lowered to a scant 0.79.
"It feels really good to be here," OU head coach Patty Gasso said about playing at home. "I was really pleased with the crowd with the weather and the time change. It really says a lot about the fans and their excitement about this team. We were very excited to be home with the comfort of our own field and our own people."
Standing at 16-0, OU is off to its second-best start in school history, trailing only a 23-0 start to the 2007 campaign. The 16-game winning streak is also the sixth longest in school history.
Ricketts, who hasn't given up a run since the sixth inning of the Notre Dame game on Feb. 17, was dominant in the circle against the Cougars (8-5). Her 14 strikeouts matched a season high, and it was her fifth double-digit strikeout game of the year.
"I thought Keilani threw extremely well today," Gasso said. "Some of the hits they got, nothing was hit really hard, but I felt like she had absolute command."
The senior pitcher allowed five hits, but the first didn't come until there was one out in the fifth inning. It was the seventh time this season that OU pitchers carried a no-hitter beyond the third inning.
Going 2-3 at the plate, Ricketts helped her own cause in the sixth inning by hitting a solo home run to right field. It was her fourth of the year and 39th of her career, breaking a tie for sixth on the OU career list with teammate Lauren Chamberlain.
The Sooners broke the game open with a four-run third inning.
With one out, Georgia Casey singled through the left side to collect the first hit of the game for either side. After a fly out, Ricketts singled to left field to move Casey to second. A walk to Shelby Pendley then loaded the bases with two outs.
Brittany Williams, celebrating her 21st birthday, stepped in and delivered a two-run single to right field to open the scoring. The at-bat came after she struck out in a similar situation to end the first inning.
"I am especially proud of Brittany Williams," Gasso said. "After her first at-bat where the opportunity didn't happen for her, she came up in the same situation and came through big-time clutch, and that's one thing we love about these guys.
"I felt like once she did that, it really opened everything up for this team, and they really appreciated her efforts and her coming through with that second chance. When you give this team a second chance, they will make you pay."
Erica Sampson came on to run for Williams and stole second. On the steal, Houston catcher Haley Outon tried to throw out Pendley at third but the throw went into left field, allowing Pendley to score and making the game 3-0.
With Sampson on second, Destinee Martinez then singled back up the middle to put OU ahead 4-0.
Oklahoma added to its lead in the fifth inning when Callie Parsons grounded into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded. Martinez was out at third, but Sampson scored on the play to make it 5-0.
Oklahoma continues its homestand on Saturday with a doubleheader against Nebraska. First pitch of game one is set for 1:30 p.m. and admission is free for all fans.