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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Sooners’ Ricketts making Arizona sick

The amount of times Arizona softball coaches and players answer a question that has to do with “Rickets,” you’d think someone on the team had been diagnosed with the bone softening disease.

The “Rickets” Arizona softball is referring to is Keilani Ricketts, the fearsome Oklahoma Sooners’ All-American junior pitcher with the sparkling 1.05 ERA and 371 strikeouts, including postseason play, who plans to give the Wildcats fits during their super regional series in Norman, Okla. this weekend.

“She’s a great pitcher, she’s got a changeup, and she keeps batters off balance,” senior first baseman Jessica Spigner said. “Our goal as a team is to stay in our game and really understand how she pitches and stay in and stay focused.”

Ricketts was recently named one of three finalists for one of the most prestigious awards in collegiate softball, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, not only for her 28 wins and 10 strikeouts per game, but her ability to swing the bat as well. Ricketts boasts a jaw-dropping .400 batting average with 14 home runs and .823 slugging percentage.

Despite her seemingly innumerable talents, head coach Mike Candrea says his team is ready for the challenge.

“The key to them is that you have to get to Ricketts,” Candrea said. “There’s no surprises. The big thing is that this team needs to realize they’re in for a battle and they need to keep playing the way they’ve been playing.”

The way Arizona has been playing thus far in the NCAA playoffs has been “inspired softball,” as Candrea put it. The Wildcats have been selecting the right pitches to hit, averaging 8.66 runs per game with a batting average of .373, but they will have to be smarter in facing Ricketts.

“The thing with Ricketts is that you can’t match power with power; you can’t swing from your hips or be in a pull mode,” Candrea said. “We need to be very selective on getting good pitches and getting the ball on the ground.”

The responsibility of getting the ball on the ground is going to fall on left-handed leadoff hitter Karissa Buchanan, who has the third highest postseason batting average on the team, hitting .500.

“She usually throws outside,” Buchanan said. “Lefty on lefty is always somewhat of a challenge. For me personally, a slapper can hit that outside pitch.”

If Arizona cannot get the ball on the ground and gives golden opportunities away to the No. 4 team in the country, Candrea admitted to the problems Ricketts could cause his team.

“If we sit there, and she’s striking out ten of them, it’s going to be a long weekend,” Candrea said. “In that regard, we have a better idea of what we’re going to face. It’s just how we deal with it.”

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