NORMAN — When Oklahoma's softball season ends in the coming months, it won't quite be the end of playing for the four Sooner seniors.
Keilani Ricketts, Jessica Shults, Michelle Gascoigne and Brianna Turang were drafted this week in the National Pro Fastpitch College Draft, setting a record for the most Sooners taken in the NPF. (The previous record was three in 2008.) All four were chosen within the first nine selections.
The four seniors, all from California, are stars and role models on OU's squad. Ricketts is the best pitcher on the squad, if not the best in the nation. Gascoigne holds the program record for winning percentage. Shults, a catcher, ranks second all-time in home runs for OU, while Turang is a base-stealing machine.
Although the four Sooners have their first Big 12 series this week, against Baylor starting Friday and continuing through the weekend, they are more than halfway through their final collegiate season.
So what's the future look like? Due to NCAA rules, though, the team isn't allowed to communicate with the draftees and vice versa yet. The draftees also can't sign until their college season is finished.
“It definitely is exciting that all four seniors were chosen to represent Oklahoma in the professional league of softball,” Ricketts said.
While NPF might extend the athletes' playing time through the summer, there isn't much life after college softball — except for Keilani Ricketts.
Although Ricketts can't talk to her potential team, she can talk to the media, and despite the announcement of her selection, Ricketts said Tuesday she's thinking of taking the USA Softball route this summer, where she has also spent her last two summers. She won silver last year with Team USA during the ISF XIII Women's World Fastpitch Championship.
It's not that she doesn't think NPF is a good route. Her older sister, Samantha, was selected 12th in the 2009 Draft and was in the league for two years.
“She loved being able to play with the girls that are just well-known players from college,” Keilani said. “It was a good experience and it really helped her network with the softball world.”
Samantha's now an assistant coach at Wichita State.
The problem for Keilani is she's the exception.
Her bio for Oklahoma athletics reads like a direct admit into a Hall of Fame: “Entered 2013 with the school record for strikeouts in a career (1,255), season (457 in 2012) ... Tied for the school record in career shutouts (38) and wins in a season (37 in 2012) ... Places third at OU in victories (98) ...”