NORMAN — The Oklahoma softball team spent the early part of this season figuring out its post-Keilani Ricketts identity, and as a result, lost its first two games and three of its first 10.
Not exactly the start most expected out of the defending national champion.
“There was a lot of learning going on,” admitted OU coach Patty Gasso.
The Sooners were then dealt a severe blow with junior first baseman Lauren Chamberlain’s back injury that has caused her to miss the past nine games, and will likely keep her sidelined until at least early May. Still, OU began Big 12 play with a dominant three-game sweep of Iowa State last weekend and enters Wednesday’s evening’s home game against Bedlam rival Oklahoma State on a six-game winning streak.
“The beauty of the Big 12 is saying, ‘OK, you have no batting average, you have no ERA. You have no stats whatsoever,’” Gasso said.
Chamberlain was hitting .316 for the season with six home runs and 16 RBIs before her injury. She is a two-time All-American and team captain who was instrumental in the Sooners’ 2013 national title.
Oklahoma (24-8, 3-0 Big 12) prides itself as a program on not being about any one player, said senior outfielder Destinee Martinez.
“She’s our captain, so it is gonna be tough for all of us,” Martinez said, “but she encourages us and lets us know that we don’t need her on the field, that we can do anything without her. She tries to make it clear to us that she’s not the team.”
Gasso said, “We always say we are strong enough that, you take anybody out of our lineup and we’re still gonna win games. I just have to ask everybody to step forward and go to another place.”
One of the players who has stepped up in Chamberlain’s absence is sophomore outfielder Kady Self, who was named Big 12 Player of the Week after an impressive showing against Iowa State. In the weekend series, the Edmond North product hit three home runs, scored seven runs and recorded seven base hits.
“I got a lot of confidence, and my teammates help me out,” Self said. “They’ve all been supporting me, and we’ve been playing good.”