Four Who Made a Difference for Oklahoma Softball Graduating

Oklahoma College Softball Keilani Ricketts

Four Who Made a Difference for Oklahoma Softball Graduating

How good was the 2013 Oklahoma softball team? Without question it ranks as one of the greatest in the history of college softball.  Oklahoma had a year to remember for the Sooner nation and one for the record books and all of college softball.  

With its sweep of Tennessee, Oklahoma finished with the fifth highest winning percentage in NCAA history ( .934 ). The Sooners led the nation in runs per game (7.8), earned run average (1.16), and slugging percentage (.592) while finishing fourth in batting (.334) and home runs (94). The Sooners outscored their WCWS opponents 32-8 and outscored their NCAA postseason foes 91-16, run-ruling five opponents. Oklahoma outscored their opponents by 402 runs this season, 476-74. The next highest Division One differential was Tennessee ( +297). OU was 55-0 when scoring at least three runs and run-ruled 25 opponents, nearly half of their 57 wins. OU played as tough a schedule as possible and went 23-3 against ranked teams, winning by run-rule in seven games.

Oklahoma set single-season school records for runs scored (476), runs batted in (443), slugging percentage (.582), fewest errors (34) and winning percentage (.934). Four players who contributed to the historic year will be graduating after having left their mark on the Sooner program for the past four years. They include two-time ASA USA Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts, catcher Jessica Shults, left-hand pitcher Michelle Gasciogne and outfielder Brianna Turang.

The 6-foot-2 Ricketts, who  probably could have pitched the final game but instead told OU coach Patty Gasso to give the ball to Gascoigne,  finished her career with an overall 133-35  won-loss record, highlighted by a  35-1 record in 2013 with an ERA of 1.23, striking out 350 batters in 238.1 innings. Opponents were frustrated against the hard-throwing left-hander as they batted only .148 against her.  Her won-loss total ranks ninth in NCAA history and she is one of 11 pitchers with at least 1,600 career strikeouts, and one of only four in that group to win a national championship.  In NCAA tournament play, she compiled a 22-7 pitching record with an ERA of 1.49, striking out 259 batters in 169 innings. She was without question one of the most outstanding double threats in college softball the last four years, compiling a career batting average of .339 with 50 homers and 180 runs batted in. In 2013 she batted .379 with 15 homers and 60 RBI. Ricketts was a team player in every sense of the word and when she  pitched her JO team to the ASA GOLD National five years ago softball followers figured it was only a matter of time before Ricketts made her mark on college softball. She did and the OU program was the beneficiary.

Ricketts’ battery mate, Shults, was one of six Sooners to earn all-tournament honors at  the WCWS, which ties the 1987 UCLA team with the most players named to the all-tournament team. Shults, who overcame health issues her sophomore year (pan ulcerative colitis), completed her OU career with a .342 batting average and batted .281 in 2013 with seven homers and 45 RBI. She had 61 homers and drove in 230 runs during her OU career. Defensively, she was outstanding making one error all season with 20 assists and 538 putouts for a fielding percentage of .998. In NCAA tournament play, Jessica batted .356, hitting five homers and driving in 22 runs, and had  a fielding percentage of 1.000 including eight assists.

Turang, who with leadoff standout Lauren Chamberlain, formed one of the most potent one-two punches in college softball, capped her career by hitting .410 in 2013, second best on the team. Certainly one of the fastest players on the base paths for the Sooners, Brianna stole 64 bases in 83 attempts during her OU career. She stole eight bases in 12 attempts in NCAA tournament play and fashioned an impressive .500 batting average besides being rock-solid defensively.  She also was named all-tournament in the WCWS for the second year in a row.

Gascoigne compiled a 10-1 record in NCAA championship play and capped off her senior year with a sparking 4-0 shutout of Tennessee in the second game of the Championship Series. She finished the year 19-3 and allowed only 17 earned runs in 136 innings, finishing with a nation-leading 0.88 ERA. She struck out 210 batters, averaging 10.81 strikeouts per seven innings.  Gascoigne, who improved every year at OU, ended her four years with a 51-7 record, striking out 528 batters in 390.2 innings and gave the Sooners  a formidable 1-2  duo inside the circle.

This quartet certainly left their imprint on OU softball and helped the Sooners redeem themselves after last year’s 5-4 loss in the rain to Alabama in the championship series that served as motivation and inspired them to come back for redemption. This was a team that had it all, power, speed, pitching and defense and, above all, believed in one another and didn’t let the pressure of being ranked No. 1 from the pre-season to the end bother  them.