NORMAN — Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso learned a long time ago that returning lots of experience doesn't automatically guarantee success.
Her Sooners won the 2000 national championship and returned all but one player the next season, but came up short in their title defense.
“In 2001, after we won the national championship, we had a lot of returners back,” Gasso said. “Nothing's automatic. Nothing is given. Right now, I would imagine we're one of the front-runners.”
The Sooners return 13 letter winners — including USA Softball Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts — from last season's squad, which finished as Women's College World Series runner up.
Ricketts, now a senior, was 37-9 in the circle — and recorded a .395 batting average and 17 home runs — last season.
“I feel like all of us had a taste of what it was like to be there,” said senior catcher Jessica Shults.
“It's a brand new team. Last year's team is done with. We kind of closed the book from last season and we're starting fresh.”
Turning the page and moving forward wasn't easy, though, considering just how close Oklahoma came to winning the 2012 title.
The Sooners beat Alabama in the first game of the World Series' three-game championship series, but lost the next two, along with the national title.
In Game 3, Oklahoma jumped to a 3-0 lead, and Ricketts struck out five of the first six Crimson Tide batters she faced.
But following a 13-minute weather delay, the Sooners lost all their momentum, and ultimately fell 5-4.
“After the game, after it happened, it definitely was really painful to think about,” said Ricketts, who was 37-9 in the circle with a 1.08 ERA last season.
“But we just had to accept that it wasn't our destiny to win. ... I don't want to forget about it because we can use it as a tool to boost our determination.”