Sooners Open the Season Feb. 8 Against Stanford
Jan. 31, 2013
NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma softball team held its annual media day on Wednesday night at the OU Softball Complex. Head coach Patty Gasso addressed the media, while seniors Keilani Ricketts, Jessica Shults and Brianna Turang, and sophomores Georgia Casey, Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley, also spoke about the upcoming season.
Oklahoma returns 13 letterwinners from the 2012 squad that reached the Championship Finals of the Women's College World Series including Ricketts, the USA Softball Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. Shults and Chamberlain also return from All-American seasons.
In addition, the Sooners boast an incoming freshman class with seven players, all of which hail from the state of Oklahoma, and Pendley, a transfer who was a first-team All-Pac 12 honoree last season at Arizona.
The 2013 season begins on Friday, Feb. 8, against No. 21 Stanford at the Kajikawa Classic in Phoenix, Ariz.
|| Head Coach Patty Gasso
On getting started for the 2013 season:
"It's very exciting because they're hungry, and it was pretty easy to watch them go through the fall, although there was quite a bit of teaching because I have seven freshmen, all from Oklahoma. They're trying to learn the system, so there was a lot of teaching going on, but my upperclassmen helped with that because they know freshmen are very important to the success of this program. But they're hungry and they went after it hard this fall. We still feel like we have some things to take care of before we hit the road, but they are just very anxious about getting started again."
On overcoming the end of last season:
"I think they just felt a lot of unfinished business. Honestly, they were still in just absolute shock. It's a little bit different because when the season's over, they're gone. They go home, or go wherever they're going, and so we don't really as a team get to talk about what transpired besides what happens with the team right after the game. So when we brought it up before our first practice and I stood with them in the locker room you could see emotion. They still feel it inside; it's not something you shake off and say 'oh well.' They tasted it; they had their hand on that trophy and they knew it, so they're very much driven right now."
On showcasing elite players:
"They can back it up. I can't hide Lauren Chamberlain from anybody. She's the best hitter I've ever seen and we're talking about her against Amber Flores and some big-time hitters. Lauren Chamberlain is the best I've ever seen ever in my history. She's one of the best without a doubt, and she's only a sophomore. I can't hide that. I have to tell you the truth; she's that good. Keilani Ricketts is one of the best pitchers in the country and the best to come out of this program; you all know that. These guys back up who they are, and I'm not bragging on them, I'm just telling you that we've got some pretty outstanding players who can really compete for a national championship."
On Shelby Pendley:
"She is a tremendous athlete. We're still teaching her our system, but she's caught on real quick. She's connected very well with Coach [Tripp] MacKay, my hitting coach, and has really connected with the athletes. But watching her on the field, I know she's going to be something very special. So far it's been a very good fit for both sides."
On Shelby Pendley adjusting to Oklahoma softball:
"One thing you have to know when you come here is you're going to work. And if you don't have passion and can't really put softball as a priority, this isn't the program for you. I think Shelby [Pendley] has that personality; she wants to win. She's almost too hard on herself at times and that gets in the way, and with a lot of athletes that are elite athletes. If you want to come here, you have to work. This program isn't for everybody, but the ones that it fits, we end up doing very well and winning some championships with it."
On the freshmen:
"This freshmen group has tremendous power. If you ever come out and watch batting practice, more balls are on the other side of the fence than within the stadium. Leslie Miller, Paris Townsend, Jules Townsend, Whitney Ellis, they all have unbelievable power and strength. I would say, too, that this group is talented, but they're raw and have a lot to learn. This is the right year for them to sit and watch and learn. Who else better to learn from, if I'm Taylor Dewbery, Leslie Miller or Jules Townsend, as pitchers, than learning from Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne. Whitney Ellis, a catcher, who better to learn from than Jessica Shults. It sets these freshmen up pretty nicely. Maybe they don't get a tremendous amount of playing time, but they're going to learn from the best and that's really important."
|| Senior Keilani Ricketts
On what she focuses on during the game:
"It’s usually the best when I just focus on the game and focus on what the team is doing at the moment, because when you start focusing on what people are saying outside of the bubble it just distracts what our game plan is and what our main focus is."
On how she got over the national championship:
"It helped because I only had two days off and then went to Team USA tryouts right away. It probably would have been a lot harder if I had more of a break, but since I had to go right into USA my mindset just switched right away."
On if she wants to forget about how last season ended:
"After the game, after it happened, it was definitely painful to think about, but it was also something that we had to accept that it just wasn’t our destiny to win. We just have to use it as our motivation going into this year, so I don’t want to forget about it because we can use it as a tool to boost our determination."
On the team’s strength:
"There are a lot of strengths that we have, and we have a lot of depth in every position. Everyone is out there competing for a win just for the team, and as long as we stick to our game plan, because we have the talent, but as long as we focus on the task at hand we will be able to make some noise."
|| Senior Jessica Shults
On the newcomers:
"They’re fighters. They’re all trying to get into the starting lineup, and they’re all working really hard. They come to practice every day, and they’re just busting their butts. They’re a great group of people off the field too, so I’m really excited. They bring speed and power, and I’m really excited to see them this year."
On if they notice the rankings:
"I don’t think that really matters. We’ve got to play each game, and I think we just have to take it day by day and not be worried about where we’re ranked or anything like that."
On thinking about winning national championship this year:
"I think we need to focus on the now and not even think about that right now because we have a long road ahead to get there."
|| Sophomore Lauren Chamberlain
On if coming up short last year is the team’s motivation:
"We’re definitely hungry, and we’re taking more of the positive out of those experiences than the negative. Obviously, we’re pretty pumped up and fire up about it, but at the same time we know we got the good experience of being at the height of softball, the pinnacle of where softball is at, so we know coming back that we are experienced in that way and we know what we have to do to work harder to win that national championship."
On returning so many starters:
"It’s huge because I feel like at our first practice coming back in the fall it was almost like we picked up where we left off, and that’s huge to not have to go back through that process. It’s always going to be a process in the fall, but at the same time it was almost like we had a head start because we were all on the same page."
On potentially hitting lead-off this season:
“I’m up for the challenge. I’m just looking to get good pitches and take good hacks, and if I’m in the lead-off I’m ready to get things going for my team and am going to be that spark to get things going.”