NORMAN — At Wednesday’s media day for Oklahoma softball, there were a lot of platitudes tossed about for the second-ranked Sooners and their star pitcher Keilani Ricketts. Chief among those was whether Ricketts could be considered the best softball player in the world.
It’s not a far-fetched notion. Ricketts went 37-9 a year ago with a 1.08 ERA and was named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. She was dominant in the circle all season long and brought the Sooners to the brink of a national championship a year ago.
In addition to being the best pitcher in the nation, Ricketts is also one of the country’s best in the batter’s box. She led the team in batting average last year by going .395. She was also third in a loaded Sooners’ lineup in home runs, connecting on 17 to go along with 49 RBIs.
So to bring her name up in the conversation of the best in the world is not unexpected. But for Ricketts, who has achieved nearly everything possible as an individual, personal achievements aren’t even on her radar this season. When the Sooners take the field on Feb. 8 for a season-opening showdown with Stanford in Phoenix, there will be only one goal on the senior’s mind.
“It’s about winning a national championship,” she said. “That will definitely complete my career.”
It’s a team-first attitude that Ricketts and her teammates all profess, and one that is a staple of coach Patty Gasso’s program at Oklahoma. It took the Sooners to the final game of the 2012 season in the championship at the Women’s College World Series, and it’s one that the Sooners hope will take them back to that game again.
“They felt there’s a lot of unfinished business from last year,” Gasso said. “They were still in absolute shock, and when the season’s over they’re gone so we don’t really get to talk a lot as a team about what transpired.”
But when the Sooners returned to school in the fall, the emotions from that loss were still raw, Gasso noted and Ricketts confirmed. After the season ended Ricketts and her teammates left almost immediately for Team USA tryouts, something that might have pushed the loss from their minds.
But, at least for Ricketts, there was no such luck.
“It’s not something you forget when you lose Game 3,” she said. “It’s painful to think about.”
But Ricketts and her teammates plan to use that game as motivation, and her personal goals only extend as far as they can help her team avenge that loss a year ago.
“A lot of players and pitchers have ups and downs,” she said. “I just want to come back this year and be more consistent. I have another season to go, and I’m going to do everything I can to help my teammates get back there.”
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