NORMAN — As Oklahoma fans flapped red fans back and forth and passed water bottles down the row, sweat beaded around the face of the best collegiate softball pitcher in the nation.
Keilani Ricketts reached for her rosin bag, the red dirt, the sleeve of her jersey or the towel tucked in her left back pocket to dry her hands or her face, before pitching her way to a 10-5 victory against Arkansas in the NCAA Regional. But the victory didn't come without its slip-ups.
WeatherChannel.com said game time temperature was 81 degrees but “felt like” 86 degrees and there was 84 percent humidity. All that caused Ricketts to struggle to keep her grip on some pitches due to sweat.
The heat of Oklahoma is nothing new to the four-year starter.
“It's Oklahoma,” Ricketts said, before abruptly dropping the subject. “It's hot and humid. I'm used to it by now.”
Yet her actions in and out of the circle show that there's a little bit more to it then that. Ricketts often wears a special vest that cools her down. She has a fan in the dugout and she often changes her uniform to stay cooler and dry, like she did on Saturday.
“She sweats a lot and sometimes that gets in the way of her grip,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “You could see on both sides, the pitchers were starting to run out of gas. It comes down to fitness level as well and Keilani is pretty fit.”
By the sixth inning, with No. 1-ranked Oklahoma up 6-1, Ricketts looked hot. She kept grabbing at her towel in her back pocket.
With two outs and one on for Arkansas (35-19), the problems started happening for Oklahoma (49-4). First, Arkansas coach Mike Larabee put in Andrea Sullivan to pinch-hit. She smacked a two-run homer well beyond the 255 numbers of center field.