Tribune-Herald All-Big 12 Softball Team: Making living in circle, at plate

Oklahoma's Keilani Ricketts recorded a 1.10 ERA and a Big 12-high 344 strikeouts this season. She also was second in batting with a .400 average.

There isn’t a college softball player in the country more important to her team than Oklahoma’s Keilani Ricketts.

She’s an All-America pitcher and one of the most feared hitters in the Big 12.

That rare combination was a big reason why Oklahoma finished the regular season as the No. 4 team in the country and has made Ricketts the Tribune-Herald ’s Big 12 player of the year.

Ricketts tied Texas A&M’s Mel Dumezich for the most wins in the league with a 28-7 record. The powerful junior left-hander recorded a 1.10 ERA while collecting a Big 12-high 344 strikeouts in 223 2/3 innings.

Ricketts has been a great college pitcher since she stepped on Oklahoma’s campus two years ago, but her hitting really exploded this season. She finished second in the Big 12 with a .400 average while amassing 14 homers and 37 RBIs.

Igniting Oklahoma

“We know that she’s good enough to shut people down as a pitcher,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “But she’s really stepped up offensively this year and ignited the team. As she’s gotten older, she’s become more comfortable as a hitter. We’ve seen her win games with one swing of the bat.”

Ricketts helped the Sooners win the Big 12 title by finishing 13-4 with a 1.37 ERA in league games. She hit .379 with seven homers and 17 RBIs while also drawing 24 walks to lead the Big 12 with a .561 on-base percentage.

With 12 shutouts for the season, she nudged Missouri pitcher Chelsea Thomas for the league lead.

“She’s just a great all-around athlete,” Gasso said. “She doesn’t make that many mistakes as a pitcher. She doesn’t let outside influences affect her like the strike zone or the hitter’s approach. Because she’s so in control as a pitcher, I think she’s gained confidence as a hitter.”

As an Oklahoma freshman in 2010, Ricketts finished 32-10 with a 1.24 ERA and 14 shutouts to make second-team All-America. She followed with a tremendous sophomore year by finishing 29-15 with a 1.48 ERA to earn first-team All-America honors.

But her hitting has really improved throughout her career. After hitting .244 with five homers as a freshman, Ricketts hit .286 with 13 homers and 45 RBIs last year. She’s improved her batting average by more than .100 points this year.

Backing up OU in circle

While Ricketts has been Oklahoma’s key player, she’s got plenty of talent surrounding her. Third baseman Lauren Chamberlain is the Tribune-Herald ’s choice for Big 12 freshman of the year after hitting .363 with a league-high 25 homers and 63 RBIs.

Chamberlain edged Oklahoma second baseman Georgia Casey for freshman of the year after she hit .392 with nine homers and 28 RBIs.

“They’re both great competitors,” Gasso said. “They’re real students of the game and I’ve been impressed by their work ethic. They’re often in the batting cages at night trying to get more work in. They’ve started becoming leaders as freshmen.”

Gasso is the Big 12 coach of the year after leading the Sooners to the Big 12 title with a 19-5 record, two games ahead of Missouri. Thomas is the pitcher of the year after finishing 23-7 with a league-low 1.07 ERA for Missouri.

* * *

TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 SOFTBALL TEAM

FIRST TEAM

Pos Player School Cl Avg HR RBI Notable

C Jessica Shults Oklahoma Jr .360 14 56 .713 slug pct.

1B Erica Miller Iowa State Jr .364 9 30 11 doubles

2B Lexy Bennett Texas Sr .393 10 52 .475 OB pct.

SS Brittany Walker Texas A&M Jr .317 2 20 .950 fielding pct.

3B Lauren Chamberlain Oklahoma Fr .363 25 63 .888 slug pct.

OF Ashley Fleming Missouri Sr .372 15 48 .474 OB pct.

OF Torie Schmidt Texas Jr .382 0 24 .441 OB pct.

OF Maggie Hull Kansas Jr .409 7 34 .459 OB pct.

DP Courtney Craig Texas Sr .345 6 39 12 doubles

UT Taylor Hoagland Texas Jr .331 16 37 17 SB

Pos Player School Cl W-L ERA IP SO

P Chelsea Thomas Missouri Jr 23-7 1.07 189 262

P Keilani Ricketts Oklahoma Jr 28-7 1.10 223.2 344

P Mel Dumezich Texas A&M Jr 28-11 2.03 259 294

Player of the year: Keilani Ricketts, Oklahoma

Pitcher of the year: Chelsea Thomas, Missouri

Coach of the year: Patty Gasso, Oklahoma

Freshman of the year: Lauren Chamberlain, Oklahoma

SECOND TEAM

Pos Player School Cl Avg HR RBI Notable

C Adriana Perez Texas Tech Jr .350 15 55 .663 slug pct.

1B Holly Holl Baylor So .344 1 15 .421 OB pct.

2B Georgia Casey Oklahoma Fr .392 9 28 .735 slug pct.

SS Mariah Montgomery Kansas Jr .300 8 45 .387 OB pct.

3B Nadia Taylor Texas Sr .352 7 35 12 doubles

OF Emily Albus Texas A&M So .399 0 5 .561 OB pct.

OF Destinee Martinez Oklahoma So .333 0 9 16 SB

OF Mikey Kenney Texas Tech Jr .327 13 31 14 SB

DP Cassie Tysarczyk Texas A&M So .322 8 40 .441 OB pct.

UT Kathy Shelton Baylor Jr .333 1 13 28 SB

Pos Player School Cl W-L ERA IP SO

P Blaire Luna Texas Jr 18-4 2.37 150.2 219

P Rachel Fox Texas So 13-1 2.24 106.1 86

P Michelle Gascoigne Oklahoma Jr 16-1 1.30 102.1 136

— compiled by staff writer John Werner

 

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