NORMAN — Something about having Casey Angle in Oklahoma's dugout eliminated some of the postseason stress.
Casey Angle is the older sister of Sydney Angle, a youth girls' softball player and a fatality from Monday's tornado in Moore. The Sooners wore a special sticker on their batting helmets with the initials SA above the number 35 in honor of Casey's little sister. On Friday night, during top-ranked OU's 10-2 run-rule rout of Texas A&M in the Super Regional, they also had Casey as their bat girl.
“I think having Casey in our dugout and having those girls on our field yesterday just was a big reminder that ‘Yes, we're in the middle of a Super Regional and there's a lot of stress and we want to do good,' but it gave us all a chance to see that ‘let's just go out, relax and play,'” Sooners assistant coach Melyssa Lombardi said. “There are people right now that don't have their homes and are dealing with their tragedy and they have a lot more stress. We just want to relax, play and be a bit of distraction for Oklahoma and just bring the people of Oklahoma some joy.”
As Keilani Ricketts ran the bases, Casey Angle stepped out of the dugout with the rest of the Sooners to celebrate. OU run-ruled the Aggies with Ricketts' three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After a day of throwing 53 mph dropballs, 55 mph change-ups and 68 mph fastballs, Ricketts was proud of her 13-strikeout, three-hit performance in the circle. She was inspired by Casey Angle.
On Friday, Casey stood in OU's dugout wearing a white shirt with Sooners on the front and Sydney No. 35 on the back. Wearing a large red helmet, she ran out of the dugout to collect elbow protectors and bats while she high-fived players.
“It's definitely been emotional,” Ricketts said of Monday's devastation in Moore. “History happened about 10 miles away. We're just trying to be strong for Oklahoma.
“We're definitely building off the strength we see here. We feel that strength, and I think that helped us set the tone for this game.”
The Sooners showed their strength in the sixth inning. Up until that point, though, the game was fairly close. In the bottom of the sixth, the Sooners drew four walks and singled twice.
Four runs were scored on bases-loaded walks. Then Ricketts smacked a ball that sailed over the left field fence.
“We just trust that it's going to come and we're going to hit it open,” Ricketts said.
The nine-hole batter, Brianna Turang, went 3-for-3 with two singles and a double. Turang said after playing with Angle's youth softball teammates on Thursday night and seeing how strong they were, she was also inspired.
“It gave us the motivation to know we can do anything,” she said. “We can bring joy.”
As Casey Angle walked back into the dugout after the game, Sooners tapped her on the helmet. Senior catcher Jessica Shults wrapped her arm around her. The Sooners gave a 10-year-old who lost her baby sister this week a reason to smile.
“It almost gave our athletes ... it allowed them to look and see why originally they started to play this game,” Lombardi said. “It was to be with their friends and have fun because they love the sport of softball.”