Former Baler’s defense helps Sooners to brink of national title

Shortstop Jessica Vest fires to first early in the game Saturday afternoon as the Balers beat Gilroy 3-2.

San Benito High alumna Jessica Vest and the Oklahoma Sooners softball team are one win away from a NCAA Division I softball championship after beating Alabama 4-1 Monday evening.

The best-of-three series continues Tuesday. If Oklahoma wins, they will clinch the 2012 World Series.

To win the World Series, the No. 4 seeded Sooners need to win two out of three games against Alabama to win the school’s second national title and first since 2000. The two teams were scheduled to play each other in February, but the game was canceled.

Vest, the team’s starting shortstop, has not batted in the team’s four World Series games so far, but she scored one run as a pinch runner against California. She has not missed an inning defensively.

The team’s chances for a championship started well Monday, beating Alabama with two runs in the fifth and six innings.

The Sooners fell behind 1-0 after Alabama scored a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Oklahoma responded in the next half inning with two runs.

Vest played shortstop in all seven innings and pinch ran in the top of the second inning. The former Baler advanced to third base but was stranded.

Vest recorded two outs in the game, but made a 2-out error in the sixth inning.

In the three previous games, Vest played well. The freshman was stellar with the glove recording four putouts, five assists and no errors.

Her defense has allowed the Sooners’ pitcher Keilani Ricketts to hold opponents to a combined four runs in three games. Meanwhile, the Sooners scored 13 runs.

The Sooners – now 54-8 with Monday’s win – started the World Series with a 5-1 victory over surprising University of South Florida (50-14) on Thursday. Vest started at shortstop and entered the game in the sixth inning as a pinch runner, but was stranded at second base. Entering the sixth inning, the Sooner held a 2-1 lead. Oklahoma extended it’s lead with three runs in the inning.

Oklahoma followed the victory with an upset 3-0 victory over top-ranked California on Friday. The Sooners scored runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings to control the game.

Vest entered the game as a pinch runner in the fourth inning after designated hitter Katie Norris was hit by a pitch. Vest advanced to third on an error and a single. She scored when Oklahoma starting pitcher Keilani Ricketts walked.

The Sooners advanced to the championship series Sunday, defeating Arizona State 5-3. Oklahoma scored four runs in the third inning to take control of the game.

Vest entered as a pinch runner in the inning, but never advanced past first base.

Overall this year, Vest is hitting .111 with an on-base-percentage of .226.

She, though, has been the Sooner everyday shortstop and go-to pinch runner.

The World Series continues Tuesday at 5 p.m. on ESPN 2. The third game – if necessary – will be at the same time on ESPN 2.

In four games, the Sooners are 4-0 in the World Series. The Sooners have won 11 games in a row dating back to May 6 against Texas.

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