NORMAN — A little over three months have passed since the Oklahoma softball team shut out Tennessee, 4-0, in game two of the Women’s College World Series to capture the second national championship in program history and cap off one of the most dominant seasons in recent history.
While the Sooners had the summer to reflect on their accomplishments, the returning players were back out on the practice field Monday for their first fall practice. It’s the beginning of a journey for Oklahoma as it looks to become the first team to repeat as national champions since Arizona in 2006 and 2007.
When the team entered fall camp in 2012, it needed little motivation as the feelings still lingered from a loss to Alabama for the national title. This season, with the title in Norman, the squad’s motivation is a slightly different.
Four seniors graduated last season: two-time USA Softball National Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts, three-time All-American Jessica Shults and All-Big 12 honorees Michelle Gascoigne and Brianna Turang. It was a highly-decorated class and one that played an integral role in the Sooners winning the title, but head coach Patty Gasso thinks the team this fall is looking to establish its own identity.
“We love Keilani Ricketts, Jessica Shults, all of our seniors who have gone off. We love them but we want to show you that we are still pretty athletic,” Gasso said. “We can still find ways to get it done; it just might not look the same. We are still athletic enough that we can do it.”
Ricketts and Gascoigne combined to throw 96.7 percent of the team’s innings a year ago. Junior Georgia Casey is the only player on the roster that has started a game in the circle.
Casey threw 4.2 shutout innings a year ago, while freshmen Taylor Dewbery and Leslie Miller each went 1-0 but only threw 4.1 and 3.2 innings, respectively. The team also welcomes transfer pitchers Kelsey Stevens, who was 15-7 with a 2.99 earned run average a year ago at Stanford, and Maggie Ham, who pitched last season at Butler Community College.