Keilani Ricketts, with two no-hitters, has Sooners off to hot start
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Friday, February 15, 2013
2/15/13 at 7:26 AM
NORMAN - Keilani Ricketts won't forget the final pitch of the 2012 Women's College World Series.
The All-American pitcher didn't throw a national championship-clinching strike. She took a third strike at the plate as Alabama rallied to beat the Sooners in a best-of-3 series.
That June loss has provided months of motivation for the Sooners.
"It's not only for me, but for our entire team," Ricketts said. "After that last game, we saw how far we are capable of going.
"It motivates us more to get there again."
The top-ranked Sooners will take their 5-0 record to San Diego this weekend, where they will play five games in three days.
Oklahoma's perfect start has been boosted by Ricketts' back-to-back no-hitters. The left-hander earned two national player of the week awards after holding No. 5 Oregon and No. 21 Stanford hitless.
"You can't ask for anything more," Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said after the second no-hitter against Oregon. "It's almost scary. We have a long season ahead, but she's locked in and relaxed."
Ricketts didn't envision throwing her second and third career no-hitters on opening weekend.
"Definitely not," she said. "I think with how I've been practicing and going against our live hitters this past month ... they're great hitters and have been hitting me hard.
"I wasn't expecting (to throw no-hitters), but my teammates have made me better."
Most eyes will be on the hitless innings streak as Ricketts takes the circle this weekend. But she won't concern herself about that.
"Whenever I do think of things outside of the game, that's when I lose my focus," said Ricketts, who is also batting .300 with a home run this season. "When I focus on one pitch at a time, that's when I'm at my best."
Ricketts has turned into a softball superstar. She was the 2012 national player of the year and an All-American in 2011 and 2012.
She's the face of Oklahoma softball and could be the face of the sport across the country in years to come.
How does she handle the attention?
"I try not think about it because it just throws me off my game," Ricketts said, before deflecting the conversation to her teammates. "I know I wouldn't have had this much attention if I wasn't on such a great team like Oklahoma. It was a powerhouse before I came here."
Ricketts, a San Jose, Calif., native, wasn't unfamiliar with the Sooners. Her older sister, Samantha Ricketts, held the Sooners' records for career home runs (48) and RBIs (239) when she exhausted her eligibility in 2009.
"Oklahoma has been such a blessing for me," Keilani Ricketts said. "It's such a family-oriented team and I'm nothing but a stronger person with these girls."
Oklahoma was voted No. 1 this week. It's only the second time it has hit the top of the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25.
"It's definitely cool that we're recognized that we're No. 1, but we know it doesn't mean much," Ricketts said. "No one was too excited that we're No. 1. We want to be No. 1 in June, not February.
"We have a lot to work on and a lot of tough competition ahead of us."
Original Print Headline: Ace leading motivated Sooners
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
Oklahoma's Keilani Ricketts has thrown no-hitters against Oregon and Stanford this season. Associated Press file