OKLAHOMA CITY -- Cal's top-ranked softball team battled back from an early deficit Thursday to beat LSU 5-3 and win this prize in the Women's College World Series: a game against crowd favorite Oklahoma and college player of the year Keilani Ricketts.
The Bears (57-7) will meet the fourth-seeded Sooners (51-8) at 4 p.m. Friday on ESPN2.
To beat Ricketts, the pitching ace from Archbishop Mitty High-San Jose, Cal will need to better than it was Thursday, starting with pitcher Jolene Henderson.
Henderson loaded the bases in the second inning on two hits and a walk, then gave up a two-run single to Morgan Russell. A 2-0 hole might prove too deep against Ricketts, who had 11 strikeouts in an opening round 5-1 victory over South Florida. It was the 23rd time this season she had fanned 10 or more batters.
"I got behind," Henderson said of her outing, which included eight hits. "I shouldn't do that as a pitcher, but they have such a strong offense."
Fortunately for Cal, it has a strong offense too. Frani Echavarria continued her hot postseason by driving in three runs with a single, a sacrifice fly, and a fielder's choice. Jamia Reid scored twice and had two hits, including the one that put Cal ahead.
The Bears began their comeback in the third inning. Cheyenne Cordes hustled to force a slightly wayward throw from shortstop. After two fielder's choice ground outs and a walk to player of the year runner-up Valerie Arioto, Echavarria
The Bears tied it in the fifth. Reid reached on an infield hit, took second on an errant throw and was bunted to third. LSU chose to pitch around Arioto, and Echavarria foiled the strategy again, this time flying to the warning track in left field to bring home Reid.
"This team fights until the end," said Echavarria, one of several Cal players who endured long travel delays en route from the Bay Area, "and I think you saw that today. Everyone pulled together."
The Bears broke the tie in the sixth inning, busting the game open with three runs. Echavarria was involved again, driving home the final run after RBI singles from Reid and Britt Vonk.
"We fell behind early in the game," said Cal coach Diane Ninemire, "but Jolene hung tough on the mound for us. ... Today was a great game for California."
In the first night game, No. 2 seed Alabama (56-7) scored four runs in the first inning and turned it over to sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina in a 5-3 win over Tennessee (52-13).
Alabama will play Friday against Arizona State (52-9), which beat Oregon (44-17) 3-1 in the late game on a five-hitter by Dallas Escobedo.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.