NORMAN — Like Dontrelle Willis' leg kick, like Nomar Garciaparra's routine before a swing, Keilani Ricketts' twist is just one part of her game that's made her famous.
That slight twist to the left before every pitch is Ricketts' signature.
It also changed the game of softball and its followers.
Venture to Marita Hynes Field on a given spring Saturday, and any number of little girls in the stands will be standing between innings practicing their pitch — but there's always the twist that comes before the throw.
On Friday, Oklahoma fans will see that twist for the first time in the 2013 postseason when No. 1 OU faces Marist at 7:30 in its first game of the NCAA Regional.
Sooner fans probably don't remember a time when Ricketts didn't slightly turn to the left before a pitch. She actually came to Oklahoma with a pitching motion that originally sent her left arm flying back and showing everyone — the first base coach, the dugout, the batter, the fans in the stands — her grip.
“That had to stop,” Ricketts said.
It was too easy to read her pitches, especially her change-up. Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso knew the change needed to be made, so she asked assistant head coach and pitching coach Melyssa Lombardi to work with Ricketts.
“She didn't want to do it at first,” Gasso said of Ricketts' twist. “But then she understood, ‘I have to do this or I'm not going to understand success.'”
They worked to set Ricketts' grip near her hip while she twisted.
“We just figured by that it would be taking away the eyes,” Lombardi said. “By moving in that direction, it would be taking away the vision of the first base coach.”
Now, Ricketts owns a 1.10 ERA this season and is one of the toughest pitchers in the nation to read. The change and the twist gave her success, victories and fame.
Gianni Lombardi, the son of OU's pitching coach, is only five, but in his T-ball game, he's been known to set his grip on the baseball by doing a little twist first.
He isn't the only little boy who mimics the moves of a collegiate softball player. When Ricketts was with the team in California, a little boy came up to her and showed her how he brought his glove up near his cheek, down toward his hip, twisted slightly and then pitched.