Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso was direct about her team's goal against Marist, making her intentions clear after the Sooners demolished the Red Foxes 17-0 Friday night.
"It was important for us, but I know that the other teams are as well," she said. "So we're trying to send a message to them saying, 'Stop this.'"
Keilani Ricketts personified that message against the first batter she faced in the circle against with a strikeout against a Marist team with an RPI of 200.
After throwing a fastball for a strike to the second batter she faced, Ricketts froze Danielle Koltz with a change-up. All Koltz could do was shake her head.
Arkansas earned a 5-1 win against Fordham earlier in the evening and will face Oklahoma in the winners bracket at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hynes Field.
Oklahoma (48-4) scored double-digit runs for the 16th time this season and outscored its opponent by double-digits for the 15th time. OU ranks No. 1 in the country in average runs scored per game.
The Sooners' 17 runs were their second-highest total for the season, having scored 24 runs against Iowa State on April 26. In their 2012 NCAA tournament opener, the Sooners beat up Lehigh 19-3 at Hynes Field.
The Red Fox players were simply happy to play in the postseason and were in awe playing the top-ranked Sooners and hitting against some of the best pitching in the country.
"Obviously, nerves got to them," Marist coach Joe Ausanio said.
In the bottom of the first inning, with nobody out and all three of the women who preceded her in the batting order reaching base, Ricketts helped herself with a three-run double to right field.
An error on the women from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., allowed a fourth run.
A squeeze-play scored the fifth.
A three-run home run by Lauren Chamberlain made the score 8-0, reaching run-rule territory, before the third out could be recorded by Marist (30-25) in the first inning.
With her 26th home run of the season, Chamberlain matched former Sooner Amber Flores for second all-time on the school's home run list with 56.
Chamberlain, a sophomore, is one of three current Sooners who rank in the top five on the list. Senior Jessica Shults is the career leader with 61, while Ricketts ranks fifth (47) behind older sister Samantha Ricketts (48).
"For the most part, just seeing the ball well, wanting to pass the bat to the rest of my lineup," Chamberlain said. "Overall, just a really good team effort."
Red Fox pitcher Emily Osterhaus was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Tournament less than a week ago. But on this night she was being shelled, and it was showing in her pitching.
She bounced pitches in front of the plate, missed the strike zone by wide margins with some pitches, and her defense looked as overmatched as she was.
Osterhaus gave up nine runs, five earned, on eight hit walked three in 2.1 innings of work and was unable to strikeout a single Sooner.
Ausanio admitted there were times early in the contest where he felt the game drifting from him and his players.
He said he tried to make the game as fun for them as possible and eliminate the nervousness they felt. But his efforts weren't enough tonight.
"I think they were in awe a little bit," he said.
Osterhaus' replacement, Paige Lewis, responded to the call from Ausanio by launching a pitch straight up into the air against the second batter she faced. In five innings, Marist threw three pitchers at OU.
Ricketts surrendered just one hit in three innings and struck out seven.
Senior Michelle Gascoigne came on in relief, and, after giving up a walk to the first batter she faced, struck out three straight, five total, in the final two innings.
"We haven't seen pitchers like that," Ausanio said.