Ricketts and Sooners race to the top of the National softball poll

It’s hard not to be a big fan of women’s softball if you love college sports. The game is played with passion, innovation – and even guys like me who mainly played baseball can regularly say, “Damn, I couldn’t hit that pitch!”

Just watch Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne in the circle, Lauren Chamberlain and company and the Oklahoma Sooners destroy their opponents and you’ll see what I mean.

And they work for it. Our sports anchor Carter Baum went to softball practice today, which was pretty much cancelled because of snow and rain. The only thing: practice wasn’t exactly cancelled. The key players like the aforementioned Keilani and Chamberlain had already worked out and practiced on their own earlier in the day at the indoor sports complex. That’s how athletes and teams get great. Leaders lead in practice and on the field.

Here’s a nice press release from OU about the Sooners stars this week gaining some national recognition.

Feb. 12, 2013

NORMAN, Okla. – Standout performances by senior pitcher Keilani Ricketts and sophomore infielder Lauren Chamberlain gave the University of Oklahoma softball team a clean sweep of the major national and conference awards, it was announced Monday.

Ricketts was named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Player of the Week by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week by USA Softball and the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week, while Chamberlain was crowned as the Big 12 Player of the Week.

It marks the third time Ricketts has been recognized as the NFCA Player of the Week after earning recognition in both 2011 and 2012. She was also named the USA Softball Player of the Week on Feb. 23, 2010 and becomes the first Sooner to win the award more than once.

She has been named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week 12 times throughout her career after earning the honor three times as a freshman, twice as a sophomore and six times in her junior season.

Chamberlain has now been named the Big 12 Player of the Week four times in her career, more than any other player in the league dating back to last season. In fact, since Chamberlain joined the Sooners no other player has won Player of Week honors more than twice.

NFCA Player of the Week | USA Softball Player of the Week | Big 12 Honors

The awards come after a dominant opening weekend that saw the Sooners, No. 1 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll, go 5-0, including a 6-0 win over No. 21 Stanford and 12-0 win in five innings over No. 5 Oregon.

Ricketts was the star in the circle for OU, hurling a pair of no-hitters in the wins over the Cardinal and Ducks. In the season opener against Stanford, the senior lefthander threw the second no-hitter of her career, with 14 strikeouts, and hit a solo home run in the first inning. She yielded just five baserunners and only one ball reached the outfield against the San Jose, Calif., native.

She threw her second no-hitter in as many games on Saturday against Oregon. En route to career win No. 100, the senior lefty allowed just two baserunners against the Ducks on a walk and error. Of her 15 outs in the game, 10 came via strike out.

In taking down the No. 21 and No. 5 teams in the country, Ricketts struck out 24 in 12 innings of work. She now has three career no-hitters, becoming the fifth pitcher in OU history to reach that figure.

This season, Ricketts has registered a 2-0 record with 28 strikeouts over 14 innings of work and has allowed the opposition to hit at just a .096 clip. At the plate she has posted a .300 batting average with a home run, three run batted in, five walks and a .533 on-base percentage.

As dominant as Ricketts was in the circle, Chamberlain was just as dominant at the plate.

As the leadoff hitter in all five games, she hit .636 (7-11) with four home runs, 12 runs scored and 12 runs batted in. In addition, she walked six times and was hit by three pitches, giving her a .800 on-base percentage. She also slugged 1.727.

Currently, she leads the Big 12 in home runs, walks, runs scored, RBI, OBP and slugging.

Chamberlain started the season by reaching base in her first 10 plate appearances. She was 5-5 with four home runs, drew four walks and was hit by a pitch before making her first out.

She homered in the first game of the season against No. 21 Stanford, and followed with two more home runs, including a grand slam, against Oregon State. The Trabuco Canyon, Calif., native scored four runs and drove in six more against the Beavers.

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