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January 31, 2013

National title is Sooners’ main target

NORMAN — At Wednesday’s media day for Oklahoma softball, there were a lot of platitudes tossed about for the second-ranked Sooners and their star pitcher Keilani Ricketts. Chief among those was whether Ricketts could be considered the best softball player in the world.

It’s not a far-fetched notion. Ricketts went 37-9 a year ago with a 1.08 ERA and was named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. She was dominant in the circle all season long and brought the Sooners to the brink of a national championship a year ago.

In addition to being the best pitcher in the nation, Ricketts is also one of the country’s best in the batter’s box. She led the team in batting average last year by going .395. She was also third in a loaded Sooners’ lineup in home runs, connecting on 17 to go along with 49 RBIs.

So to bring her name up in the conversation of the best in the world is not unexpected. But for Ricketts, who has achieved nearly everything possible as an individual, personal achievements aren’t even on her radar this season. When the Sooners take the field on Feb. 8 for a season-opening showdown with Stanford in Phoenix, there will be only one goal on the senior’s mind.

“It’s about winning a national championship,” she said. “That will definitely complete my career.”

It’s a team-first attitude that Ricketts and her teammates all profess, and one that is a staple of coach Patty Gasso’s program at Oklahoma. It took the Sooners to the final game of the 2012 season in the championship at the Women’s College World Series, and it’s one that the Sooners hope will take them back to that game again.

“They felt there’s a lot of unfinished business from last year,” Gasso said. “They were still in absolute shock, and when the season’s over they’re gone so we don’t really get to talk a lot as a team about what transpired.”

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