NORMAN — Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso saw no reason to add talent outside the state to the 2013 roster when she found it all home grown.
The problem with that, though, was all seven freshmen knew exactly who Keilani Ricketts, Lauren Chamberlain and Jessica Shults were — and how big of stars they have made the University of Oklahoma softball team.
This weekend, the voices of the seven freshmen will ring through the air as the No. 1-ranked Sooners play a three-game series against Iowa State at Marita Hynes Field. It'll be one more round of tests Gasso gave to Taylor Dewberry (McAlester), Whitney Elis (Yukon), Paris and Jules Townsend (Tulsa), Erin Miller (Tulsa), Leslie Miller (Blanchard) and Kady Self (Edmond). Gasso wants them to be a part of the team by cheering loud and proud.
The coach asked them to each take an inning during every game to lead the dugout cheers.
These are college freshmen, who grew up in awe of the Sooners. But at the same time, they were stars of respective high school teams. Some won high school state titles or earned All-State and All-District honors.
Now they're relegated to learning to be part of the team by cheering from the bench.
Paris and Jules Townsend sit finishing each others sentences. They are twins and the only pair of sisters on the team. (Erin and Leslie Miller are not related).
Coming to OU, the Townsend twins played against or with the five other incoming freshmen, but that didn't ease their intimidation at Oklahoma's softball prestige.
“What you're going into, like how they did last year and you're having to step into a position,” Paris said. “They already have their goals set up, knowing that and how good the team is ...”
“And how it's such high expectations,” Jules continued. “You really hit the ground running. That makes you a little nervous at first. But they really welcomed us.”
Their smiles still grow when their stars' names are brought up. There's still an “awe” factor. Gasso noticed it, too. So she gave them a challenge: each player takes an inning and cheers.
“I needed them to dive in and be a part of this team,” Gasso said.
What she didn't realize was that she created a friendly freshman competition. The freshmen took the liberty to assign each one an inning (since they only play seven innings in softball).
“I think it helps a lot,” Paris Townsend said. “You have to be the loudest and get everybody pumped about that inning.”
Whoever has their teammates score the most runs in that inning wins the game.
“We don't get anything for winning our inning,” Paris said. “We're just competitive. We bring the energy.”