NORMAN — Following their Super Regional-clinching victory against Arizona on Saturday, the Oklahoma players ran out to the center-field wall to touch the panel honoring the 2000 Sooner squad that won the national championship.
This has been an almost daily routine during practice since August. But Saturday, Keilani Ricketts, Georgia Casey and Jessica Shults yanked the giant sign off the wall, and the entire team got under it and carried it off the field.
“One of the coolest things I've ever seen,” coach Patty Gasso said. “I will always remember that moment.”
Never mind that these Sooners were in elementary school when OU won the Women's College World Series for the first and only time 12 years ago. The connection they feel with the 2000 club is a deep one.
This group respects those Sooners. And this group, which begins its own WCWS run against South Florida at noon Thursday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, wants to be like those Sooners.
“We know a lot about it, just because it's a big part of the history of this program,” Ricketts said. “Our ultimate goal is to be where that 2000 team was.”
There are constant reminders of that title-winning squad scattered throughout the OU Softball Complex. Pictures of All-Americans like Ashli Wigington (formerly Barrett) and Jennifer Stewart. Framed newspaper clippings from the victory over UCLA that captured the championship.
The current Sooners even broke out shorts, rather than traditional softball pants, for Saturday's contest in a special nod to the 2000 team.
But their most direct link to 2000 are two women who have been key parts of both squads — Gasso and volunteer assistant Lisa Carey, the 2000 team's big slugger. The current Sooners have not been shy about asking questions about the past, and Gasso and Carey have been open to sharing their experiences.
“I feel like part of that team is almost with (Carey), because she was such a big impact on that team,” OU outfielder Brianna Turang said. “She led them. Having her out here kind of gives us a feel of how she was.
“Her and Coach Gasso always say (the 2000 team) never gave up. They were confident, but not cocky. They just had the will to win, and they did.”