Keilani Ricketts' finest moment didn't come in the pitching circle. Strange for college softball's best pitcher, on a team that Tuesday night won the NCAA championship.
And Ricketts' finest moment didn't come with the bat in her hand. Strange for the sport's latest Babe Ruth, a slugger who hit the game-winning home run in the Women's College World Series title game.
Ricketts' finest moment came when she said fine. Her finest moment came earlier Tuesday, when the pitcher who throws every big game for the Sooners said it was no problem if fellow senior Michelle Gascoigne pitched what could be their final college competition.
Ricketts' finest moment came when she said winning the championship was all that mattered, not how the championship was won.
OU beat Tennessee 4-0 to sweep the WCWS championship series and exorcise the sting of last June, when the Sooners squandered what appeared to be a likely national title.
“One year ago, we watched another team celebrate right in front of us,” said OU coach Patty Gasso. “When that last out was recorded (by Alabama), all of a sudden the Sooners were supposed to be the team to beat. It's very difficult to live that way. But this team is resilient.”
This team is more than resilient. More than historically great, befitting a team that finished with a 57-4 record and outscored opponents by 405 runs.
This team is laudable because on its biggest stage, its biggest star was willing to share the spotlight.
Gasso gave the ball to Gascoigne for Game 2 of the championship series. Unorthodox move. The formula for an NCAA softball title is clear: find a great ace and ride her to the finish.
But Gasso's move worked famously. A day after battling Ricketts for 12 innings, the Volunteers stayed completely fooled all night against Gascoigne.
And when Ricketts launched a three-run homer in the third inning, Gascoigne had more than enough run support to finish off a remarkable three-hit shutout in which she struck out more than half the batters she faced (12 of 23).
“It was really cool to just be able to get the runs for Michelle myself, because I knew what it was like last night when we were scoreless for a long time,” Ricketts said. “She was pitching her heart out.
“All we wanted was to win. It wasn't about me wanting to win it for the team. It was about our team wanting to win it for each other.”
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