NORMAN — The last nine months for Georgia Casey, Oklahoma's first international softball player, have been about adjustments.
Casey has adapted to the food, the lifestyle and the enhanced magnitude of the sport she loves in the United States.
Driving is the one that still gets her; every once in a while, Casey still feels the urge to drive on the left side of the road like they do Down Under.
“I still have my moments, but I'm pretty much fine with it now,” Casey said with a laugh.
Despite all the changes, coach Patty Gasso calls Casey the most advanced freshman she's ever had at Oklahoma.
High praise considering this year's Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Lauren Chamberlain, dons crimson and cream and broke OU's single-season home run record with 26.
Casey, OU's second baseman and leadoff hitter, has a .393 batting average and nine homers entering Game 1 of an NCAA Super Regional against Arizona, which is set for 1 p.m. Friday.
She left her native Sydney, Australia, in August to begin a college softball career at Oklahoma.
It all started a few years ago, when Casey's coach on Australia's junior national team, Paula McGovern, came to Norman to shadow OU's program and left as Gasso's friend.
The two coaches corresponded regularly, and McGovern frequently talked up a talented young pitcher and infielder on her team.
“She would tell me about this girl Georgia Casey,” Gasso said. “She sent me some video of her pitching, and I liked her style on the mound. I thought her ball moved well and looked like she could get a lot stronger.”
A scholarship opened up, and Gasso brought Casey to Norman for a visit, which went well. Gasso then went to Australia to see her play for the first time in person, and was even more impressed with the environment in which Casey competed.
Softball isn't as big in Australia as it is in America, so the girls that do play often compete with much older athletes.
“As a young athlete, her playing as much with older athletes was special,” Gasso said. “I've seen the results when some of our athletes have gone and played with the national team; they're just so much more grown up.”
Gasso offered Casey a scholarship, and she quickly accepted.
There was, of course, homesickness and major adjustments to life an ocean away from home.
“She's handled it so maturely,” Gasso said. “I've been really impressed with her, but also with my other athletes who have taken her in and made her feel welcome.”
In December, Casey was playing in a tournament back home and tore ligaments in her ankle, which cost her the first six weeks of her freshman season.
She made her debut as a pinch hitter March 2 against LSU, started her first game the next day against Iowa and has been in Gasso's lineup ever since.
“When she came back, our world changed,” Gasso said. “Georgia really changed the dynamic of our team when she came back on board.”
Just before last weekend's regional, Gasso made Casey the Sooners' leadoff hitter, and she's flourished in the role.
“It's a different kind of position than the 4, 5 and 6 (spots in the lineup),” Casey said. “In the leadoff role, your job is to get on base and put off a positive start to the game. You just have to look at it differently and have different goals.”
With Keilani Ricketts (31-7) and Michelle Gascoigne (16-1), Oklahoma has pitching covered this season.
But this summer, Gasso said she expects Casey to work from the circle and get used to pitching again.
“Just whatever the team needs,” Casey said. “I'm sure in the future I'll see more pitching time. I've always done both, but right now, our pitching is taken care of.”
After committing to Oklahoma last year, Casey watched online from Australia as the Sooners competed in the Women's College World Series. She's never played before a crowd quite like that, but is excited for the opportunity.
Gasso, who said this experience will make her think about bringing in more international recruits, is just happy to have Casey on board.
“Man, she has just exceeded any and every expectation I had at the plate and on the field, and I haven't even used her on the mound yet,” Gasso said. “She's a sponge; she wants to learn so much. She's probably the most advanced and knowledgeable freshman that I've ever had in this program, by far.”
NCAA Super Regional: Game 1
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 Arizona
When: 1 p.m. Friday
Where: OU Softball Complex, Norman
TV: ESPNU (Cox 253)
Radio: KREF-AM 1400
Notes: Game 2 is Saturday at 11 a.m., and Game 3, if necessary, is right after that. Those games will be televised on ESPN (Cox 29). ... This series is a rematch of last year's Tucson Super Regional, which OU won to advance to the 2011 Women's College World Series. ... Junior Keilani Ricketts leads OU with a .406 batting average, and is 31-7 with a 1.05 ERA in the circle. ... Arizona leads the overall series 26-15, but the Sooners have won the last four meetings. ... Hallie Wilson leads the Wildcats with a .354 batting average and 64 hits.