Do you remember how many times we told you about the depth of this Oklahoma Softball team? Do you remember, just yesterday in fact, when we told you how Michelle Gascoigne would be the 'Keilani Ricketts' on just about any other team in the country?
You saw both of these things last night.
When you win a national championship deciding game without your four time All-American pitcher and back-to-back National Player of the Year in the circle, you're a damn good softball team.
In what could only be described as the biggest and best start of her career, Gascoigne threw an unbelievable game and clinching Oklahoma's first softball national title since 2000. The senior lefty went the distance going seven innings, striking out twelve without a single walk, and allowing a paltry three hits. It was, quite simply, magnificent.
At one point in the latter portion of the game, Ricketts was sent out to the bullpen and began warming up. Not because Gascoigne was in any trouble, far from it in fact as she was in control of the game literally from her first pitch, but with the assumption that Patty Gasso would give the two-time National Player of the Year a chance to close out her career in the circle. But that didn't happen and being the Hall of Fame coach Gasso is, she was rewarded for the decision with a stellar pitching performance and her second national championship.
It was an incredible moment for a senior (Gascoigne) who has played in the shadow of Ricketts for her entire OU career, but found a role these past two years in which she excelled. And obviously none more so than Tuesday night in what had to be an incredibly rewarding moment for someone who has been the ultimate team player.
As for Ricketts, all she did in a "supporting" role was drive in all four Oklahoma runs in the game including a three run blast over the right centerfield fence. Normally accustomed to starring in the circle, Ricketts has always been a lethal threat at the plate and that fact is what places her among the all-time greats to ever play the sport. It's one thing to do it in the circle OR do it at the plate, but to do it as well as she does at both makes her very, very special.
And while there were countless incredible individual performances on this team both during the regular and postseason, few who have not followed this team as closely as others will truly appreciate what this team accomplished in 2013.
The disappointment of leaving Oklahoma City this time last year as the better team but without a national title created an indescribable amount of pressure and expectations on this year's team. The fact they were able to live up to, maybe even exceed, all of those expectations over the course of sixty plus game season is not something that should be taken for granted. It probably will be, but it shouldn't.
In moments of honesty, the coaches and players have admitted they felt the pressure. And how could they not. But to their credit, they reveled in it and Tuesday night was their reward.
It's been a special year for an incredibly special team and it would have been criminal for it to end any other way than it did Tuesday. Congratulations to the coaches, players, support staff, and everyone affiliated with this softball program!