They played for more than themselves and they won the title.
Oklahoma's softball team is the 2013 national champions.
The Sooners swept Tennessee the best-of-three WCWS finals, clinching the championship with a 4-0 victory Tuesday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. They are the fifth Division I program to win multiple titles.
After weeks of death and destruction caused by two EF5 tornadoes that ripped through nearby Moore and El Reno, Oklahoma softball gave the state a reason to smile.
The Sooners (57-4) did it with more than just their superstar ace, and possibly one of the greatest softball pitchers ever, Keilani Ricketts.
For the past four years, Michelle Gascoigne has never been the No. 1 pitcher, always the No. 2.
Some wondered why Gascoigne, who boasts a nation's-best 0.92 ERA, hadn't started a single game in the postseason. Heck, she hadn't started a game since May 11. And she had only pitched 5 2/3 innings this postseason.
Then Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso and her coaching staff gave Gascoigne three hours' notice that she would pitch for a shot at the national title.
It was an unorthodox move from the Queen of Unorthodoxy.
Gascoigne responded with a 12-strikeout, complete-game shutout of the Lady Vols (52-12). After the final out, she sprinted toward home plate until she was stopped by a dogpile from her teammates.
“It's a moment you dream about,” she said. “At one point I couldn't feel my arm, but I didn't care. I absolutely did not care.”
Gascoigne allowed just three hits, improving her record this season to 19-3.
“I tried to treat it like any other game, like another three-game series where I've got Game 2,” Gascoigne said.
A year after she watched a national title slip away in the final game with the ball in her hand, Ricketts didn't throw a single pitch — and she was fine with it. In fact, she encouraged it.
“We had a long night,” Ricketts said. “They saw a lot of me. She was fresh. It's just cool to see her be able to get the out and get the win.”
Ricketts took the finals series to a level of her own, recording 12 strikeouts in a 188-pitch, extra-innings victory Monday and driving in all four runs on Tuesday, including her 15th home run of the season that sailed quickly into the right-field stands.
In the seventh inning, with Lauren Chamberlain on third, Ricketts struck again. This time Ricketts' ball stayed in the infield and was an easy unassisted out for the first baseman, but it allowed Chamberlain to cross the plate.
Gasso thought one of the best parts of the game was that her No. 1 pitcher built the lead with her bat for her No. 2 pitcher standing in the circle. The two pitchers worked together to bring it all home.
“I definitely felt at times that I've been overlooked, but I know my teammates and my coaches don't overlook me,” Gascoigne said. “That's all that's important. They hate hitting off me at practice and they make sure I know it.
“It's been hard at times and I've had some moments where I've been like, ‘What's not good enough?”, but it's all worth it for this. Everything's worth it for this.”