NORMAN — When Michelle Gascoigne arrived Oklahoma from Benicia, Calif. in 2009, it turned out not to be exactly what the four-time MVP of her high school team expected.
“She had been the queen of her area in high school,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “I think she expected to be able to do that here, too. But she came in and got shelled. It was emotional and hard for her that first year.”
That experience ignited four years of hard work for Gascoigne. She threw herself into workouts, practices, tweaking and perfecting, all the while playing alongside the highly-touted and reigning USA Softball Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts.
But even as Ricketts accumulated the accolades, Gascoigne quietly continued to improve, going from seven wins her freshman season to a 16-1 record last year as she developed into a pitcher good enough to handle the primary duties at almost any school.
But even that was just a precursor to her senior year. Gascoigne has tallied a 15-1 record for No. 1 Oklahoma, and she leads in the nation with an earned run average of just 0.85. Gascoigne and Ricketts have split the pitching duties evenly as the Sooners have gotten off to the best start in program history at 37-2.
“Everyone wants to go into their senior year and leave it all out on the field,” she said. “It’s been great, and it’s flying by. I didn’t imagine that it would be this good, so I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
It’s an approach that has worked to perfection for Gascoigne and the Sooners. The one-two punch of Ricketts and Gascoigne — or, as Gasso calls it, the 1-A and 1-B punch — has frustrated opposing lineups all season, and Gasso expects it to do the same when the Sooners meet Oklahoma State in a Bedlam matchup at 7 p.m. today at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
“It’s been a blessing to do this with Keilani,” Gascoigne said. “It’s been cool to go through everything together, and we’re comfortable going out and pitching. I know that if my stuff isn’t working for whatever reason, she’s there to back me up.”
And vice versa. Having Gascoigne to spell her late in games is a luxury that Ricketts is thankful to have.
“It’s great to know we’re there for each other,” Ricketts said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of me to know she’s there and that she’s as good or better than me at closing out the game.”
While Gascoigne’s skills in the circle have been instrumental to OU’s success, so too has her attitude. She’s comfortable and unselfish in her role and has never considered leaving to star at another school. It’s just one of the ways in which she’s grown over the past four years.
“She’s not afraid to make mistakes, she’s just going out and playing.” Gasso said. “She’s really grown up, both on and off the field. She’s gotten involved in the community and become a great leader. I’m very proud of her.”
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