Claremore Daily Progress

June 8, 2012

Sooners have good reasons to get over WCWS defeat

The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — If coach Patty Gasso’s Oklahoma softball program can get over the pain of playing a role in its own demise in the best two-of-three championship series of the Women’s College World Series, it will likely have cleared the biggest hurdle to getting back to it.

That is the undeniable takeaway from the WCWS, which ended with Alabama on top at 12:31 a.m. Thursday morning, the Crimson Tide claiming a national championship via a 5-4 victory in a game OU led 3-0 after three innings.

“It wasn’t our time. We know that,” Gasso said. “When it’s right, we’ll be back and it will be ours.

“We’ve learned a lot.”

Those lessons could be valuable.

The Sooners struggled to move runners around the bases, stranding 21 in the three games against the Crimson Tide. Not always can a home run be counted upon, even as OU hit 102 over the course of the season, including three in the season’s final loss.

The Sooners also committed five errors during the three-game championship series, setting the stage for the Crimson Tide to plate six unearned runs.

Good thing, perhaps, that just about everybody who might benefit from those lessons will be back next season.

Every OU player to start a World Series game, in the field and in the batting order, is due back for 2013 but for Katie Norris, the Stillwater native who became a Sooner to play softball.

One of only three seniors on the entire roster, the other two are part-time pitchers Allee Allen and Kirsten Allen.

That means OU returns about 90 percent of a lineup that finished the season hitting .316 with a .410 on-base percentage, while slugging .547.

“It’s pretty exciting to know that we have so many people coming back,” catcher Jessica Shults said. “We had a great group of seniors that brought a lot of leadership, but we’re going to be seniors next year, too. I feel blessed to be a part of this team and have my best friends with me.”

The lineup is a murderer’s row.

Wednesday, against Alabama, OU’s batting order led off with Brianna Turang (.356, 13 stolen bases), followed by Destinee Martinez (.349, 18 stolen bases), Lauren Chamberlain (.357, 30 home runs, 78 RBIs), Keilani Ricketts (.395, 17 home runs, 49 RBIs) and Shults (.379, 20 home runs, 65 RBIs). After Norris hit in the six-hole, Georgia Casey (.346, 10 home runs, 42 RBIs) followed.

Ricketts, the national player of the year, will bring her 1.08 earned run average and 457 strikeouts in 292 innings pitched back to the circle, where she’ll continue to be backed up by Michelle Gascoigne (16-1, 1.57 ERA).

Such a crush of talent and ability, don’t be surprised if the Sooners open next season ranked No. 1.

“This has just been an unbelievable journey,” Gasso said. “Although we didn’t get what we wanted, it’s an unbelievable journey that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

She was speaking of this season. But an even bigger one could be on the way.