By MICHAEL KINNEY
The USA Softball Women’s National Team was dealt a blow when, just a few days before the World Cup of Softball VIII was to begin in Oklahoma City, the two-time national collegiate player of the year informed it that she would no longer be a part of the team.
USA Softball spokesman Ronnie Isham told the Norman Transcript Tuesday that former Oklahoma pitcher Keilani Ricketts called him July 3 to tell him she was leaving the team.
The World Cup begins Thursday at Hall of Fame Stadium. Ricketts very likely would have been in the circle at 7 p.m. when Team USA opened up against Canada.
“She had a business decision to make,” Isham said, “and that business decision did not include Team USA.”
When asked what kind of business decision Ricketts had made, Isham said he knew what it might be, but it was “confidential.” Isham said Ricketts’ decision caught the USA Softball program off guard.
Ricketts could not be reached for comment. Neither USA Softball nor Oklahoma’s softball program, which Ricketts just led to a national championship, has issued any official nor public statement regarding Ricketts’ departure.
Ricketts spent each of the last two summers with the national team, helping the squad win the 2012 World Cup of Softball and also take silver at the 2012 ISF XIII Women’s World Fastpitch Championship and Canadian Open International Championship.
Ricketts earned her third consecutive spot on the team June 14 when she and Sooner teammates Lauren Chamberlain and Destinee Martinez were selected to the 18-player squad after a three-day selection camp.
As late as June 24, when Ricketts walked away with the 2013 Honda Cup, given annually to the nation’s top female collegiate athlete by the Collegiate Women’s Sports Awards, Oklahoma issued press releases that referenced Ricketts’ place on the national team.
The Amateur Softball Association of America and USA Softball have removed Ricketts’ photo from their online roster.
“She decided about a week ago she no longer wanted to play,” said Codi Warren, spokesperson for the ASA. “That sucks for us. We are pulling up a girl from (the) junior national (team) to take her spot, Sheridan Hawkins from Oregon.”
Team USA will have a tough time filling Ricketts’ shoes. In her just-completed senior Sooner season, Ricketts went 35-1 with a 1.23 earned run average, striking out 350 in 2381⁄3 innings while throwing six no hitters, the last one coming at the Women’s College World Series.
She ranked second in the nation in shutouts (16), third in wins, fifth in hits allowed per seven innings (3.61), sixth in strikeouts and eighth in both ERA (1.23) and strikeouts per seven innings (10.3).
Additionally, Ricketts hit .379 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs. She slugged .725, got on base at a .534 clip and was a perfect 9-for-9 stealing bases. In OU’s national championship clinching victory over Tennessee, a 4-0 decision, Ricketts drove in all four runs, putting the Sooners up early with a three-run home run.