Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso sees key similarities between the 2000 Sooner team that won the program's only national championship and this season's team that begins its Women's College World Series run against South Florida on Thursday. Here is a breakdown.
Then: Jennifer Stewart posted a 34-6 record with a 1.34 ERA and 171 strikeouts as the Sooners' ace.
Now: Keilani Ricketts is the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, sporting a sparkling 0.99 ERA, 393 strikeouts and a 33-7 record.
Former OU catcher Ashli Wigington (formerly Barrett): “(Stewart's) changeup was nasty, and her work ethic was unmatched. I was actually her first catcher, when she first started pitching, so to see how far she came was remarkable in itself.”
OU coach Patty Gasso: “(Ricketts is) the best I've seen her. Control, competitiveness, really getting locked in. The ability to get herself out of jams, she's done that a lot. Before, she'd just kind of surrender. She'd get so mad at herself or be bothered by something. She's just in a different zone that I have not seen her in.”
Then: The Sooners had four players with 10 or more home runs, six with 10 or more doubles and four with 55 or more RBIs. Lisa Carey was the big slugger with 20 home runs (then tied a school record), while Andrea Davis (.355 average, 14 home runs, 55 RBIs) and Ashli Wigington (.346 average, 16 home runs, 59 RBIs) were also dangerous with the bat.
Now: The heart of the Sooners' lineup — Lauren Chamberlain, Ricketts and Jessica Shults — has combined for 62 home runs and 173 RBIs. Chamberlain's 27 home runs is a Big 12 single-season record.
Wigington: “We worked really well together. We all put in the extra time. We all spent a lot time after and before practice hitting.”
Carey: “(Chamberlain) plays like a junior or a senior. She's taken over that role in the infield and done a tremendous job. And she kind of has a little swagger to her, but it's a good swagger.”
Then: Much of the Sooners' core, including Stewart, Wigington, Kelli Braitsch, Mandy Fulton and Erin Evans, hailed from Oklahoma.
Now: The Sooners have five Oklahomans on the roster in Javen Henson, Katie Norris, Callie Parsons, Erica Sampson and Ali Vandever.
Wigington: “A lot of us had played together or against each other at some point earlier in our careers in summer ball and high school ball. I think that all played a factor. It wasn't just a group of girls that you threw together and hoped they got along. We all knew each other very well.”