By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Really, that’s about right.
On the day Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso saves the nation’s best pitcher for a possible winner-take-all national championship game, the nation’s best pitcher’s back-up tosses a shutout and the nation’s best pitcher rips a three-run home run and drives in all four Sooner runs.
Think about it and is there a better example of one, Keilani Ricketts’ dominion over the college game; and two, the Sooners’ collective dominance?
The backup dominates the circle and the player of the year, on a night off, knocks the cover off the ball.
Before this Women’s College World Series began, Gasso said, “You’ll see both of them,” when asked about her two-headed pitching monster that’s mostly Ricketts but a fair dose of Michelle Gascoigne, and after Ricketts tossed all 12 innings of Monday night’s Best Game in the History of the Sport, Gasso proved herself a truth-teller by unveiling her other lefty for the first time since the World Series began.
Gascoigne responded by throwing the Sooners’ best game of their Hall of Fame Stadium stay and maybe the entire postseason.
Though it wasn’t a no-hitter, nor did she give up a run and the Vols’ three baserunners, only one advancing more than 60 feet, tied a postseason low for Sooner opponents. All of that and the night Marist put three on base, Ricketts only had to throw five innings.
Gascoigne struck out 11, including Lexi Overstreet, to end it looking on a pull-the-string change-up. She was rewarded with a spot at the bottom of the Sooner dogpile.
Thirteen years ago when the Sooners last won it all, confusion accompanied the final out when UCLA’s Crissy Buck prematurely stepped off first base. This time OU did it up right.
The pile stretched across the circle, Gascoigne facing third base, the only one with only dirt beneath her as her teammates jumped on top.
“It’s something you dream about your whole life,” Gascoigne said. “We’ve never dogpiled before. We’ve always been waiting for this moment.”
She said she might have lost circulation in her left arm. Then she said she didn’t care.
Ricketts’ heroics came in the third inning when she turned on an Ivy Renfroe offering and deposited it well beyond the right-field wall.
She can be a national hero if they’ll just put softball back in the Olympics.
If they don’t, she can settle for being the most dominant Sooner athlete in the history of her university.
Jason White and Billy Sims should have won back-to-back Heisman Trophies, but neither led the Sooners in tackles, too. Lee Roy Selmon never ran for a thousand yards, Waymon Tisdale never played in a Final Four, Courtney Paris never won a national championship and, sorry, Jonathan Horton and Bart Conner, but you’ve got to give it to the Sooner southpaw.
“It wasn’t our time,” Ricketts said of last season, when she made the last out against Alabama, a called strike three after midnight in the rain.
It was a long time ago.
Already the only coach of a national championship group of Sooner women, now Gasso’s done it twice.
She has the sluggers coming back to do it again next season, but the circle is a question mark with Ricketts’ and Gascoigne’s departures.
None of it matters for the next several months. What matters is she built this team for the ages, guided it through the minefields of great expectation, well enough to overcome any obstacle, including a three-run deficit in the bottom the 11th inning. After that, Tuesday may have felt like gravy.
“I cannot tell you how honored I am to be the coach of this team,” Gasso said.
It was fortunate to have her, too.
That’s about it.
Fifty-seven wins in 61 tries, winning it all for themselves, their program, their university and, in a way far more personal than they ever might have dreamed, the state, rather than the name, on the front of their jersey.
That’s about it.
It’s more than enough.
Follow me @clayhorning