In 1985, Gatorade established an award honoring the nation's top high school student-athletes. Since then, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized more than 12,500 state and national winners in 12 sports.
Gatorade Player of the Year alumni include household names like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Abby Wambach — a distinguished group, indeed.
This week, we're catching up with Keilani Ricketts.
While Keilani Ricketts added another award to her trophy case on Tuesday, the real hardware the University of Oklahoma senior has her eyes on will be played out over the next week in Oklahoma City.
Ricketts, who captured a second consecutive USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year honor, leads the top-seeded Sooners as the heavy favorite entering Thursday’s Women’s College World Series opener.
Oklahoma lost to Alabama in the championship series a year ago, but the Sooners are hopeful that Ricketts — the 2008-09 Gatorade California Softball Player of the Year — will push them over the top.
And why not? The overpowering left-hander owns a 31-1 record in the circle with a 1.22 ERA, 311 strikeouts and 16 shutouts. At the plate, she is batting .375 with 13 home runs and a .706 slugging percentage.
Ricketts isn’t slowing down heading into the WCWS either. In the Super Regional against Texas A&M, she struck out 13 and hit a walk-off three-run homer in a 10-2, six-inning victory in Game 1. Ricketts fired a five-inning, run-rule shutout in an 8-0 Game 2 victory.
Oklahoma opens WCWS play against No. 8 seed Michigan and three-time Gatorade Michigan Softball Player of the Year Sara Driesenga.
Gatorade Player of the Year winners at the Women’s College World Series include:
Oklahoma: Ricketts (2009, Calif.)
Michigan: Driesenga (2009-11, Mich.)
Arizona State: Dallas Escobedo (2010, Ariz.)
Nebraska: Alicia Armstrong (2012, Neb.), Mattie Fowler (2011, Ariz.), Emily Lockman (2012, Calif.)
Washington: Kaitlin Inglesby (2010, Ore.)
Tennessee: Erin Gabriel (2010-11, Ohio), Rainey Gaffin (2011-12, Colo.), Lauren Gibson (2008, Md.), Ellen Renfroe (2010, Tenn.)
Florida: Jessica Damico (2010, Mo.), Kelsey Stewart (2010, Kan.)