When his two youngest daughters, Stephanie and Keilani, were just starting to show their potential as pitchers, Jeff Ricketts would make sure they put in their work, no matter the rest of their schedule.
Even in the dark, the family would head to a park near their San Jose, Calif., home.
“We'd go out there with a kerosene lamp and I'd sit there and hold it and those two would pitch back and forth so they could get their work in,” Carol Ricketts said. “Keilani, when she was like 10, there were a lot of times when she said, ‘I hate this game, I don't want to play, please don't make me play.”
Friday, Keilani Ricketts was on the biggest stage yet of her softball career, pitching for Oklahoma against top-ranked California.
Carol Ricketts and daughters Samantha, a former All-American infielder at OU, and Stephanie, who just finished her senior season at Hawaii, were at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday night, where they watched Keilani strike out 16 in a 3-0 Sooners win.
Brother Richard, a former football player at the Air Force Academy who is stationed in Ohio, was on his way to Oklahoma City for the weekend, while Jeff is also working to make it to Oklahoma City for the rest of the tournament.
Jeff's determination at getting the girls to practice led to them falling in love with the sport.
“The second me and Keilani became pitchers, he would catch us every day,” Stephanie said. “It was easy at the beginning and then we both started throwing hard and wild and he would put up with broken bones and joints, knowing that it was going to pay off in the long run.
“I don't know when it started, but it hasn't ended.”
Carol and Jeff played sports — Carol played softball, and Jeff wrestled and played football — and while they pushed their children, they didn't do it in a harsh way.
“We were never that family I see a lot nowadays where the love is based on how well you perform,” Samantha said. “If we had a bad game, it wasn't, ‘We're not feeding you, you're awful.' It was, ‘OK, you'll get it tomorrow.'
“It was the attitude that my parents brought in and also the competitiveness of the four of us against each other. When your biggest competition is in the room next to you, it's kind of fun.”
The intense attitude Keilani shows on the field fades away fast when she's not playing softball, her sister said.
“She's got that scowl on the mound but she's definitely got the youngest child attitude and is real easygoing,” Samantha said. “She's a jokester a lot of the time but once she steps on the field, it's a different person.”