Sooners softball fans were hardly surprised when Keilani Ricketts, who dominated collegiate softball all season, was named the 2013 Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and recipient of The Honda Cup. Ricketts, who has been called “her sport’s Babe Ruth,” was presented the prestigious award tonight in a live telecast from USC’s Galen Center Founders Club in downtown Los Angeles. Softball legend Lisa Fernandez, the first softball player to win the Honda Cup in 1993, immediately jumped up from her seat for a standing ovation.
“Keilani is a great person to represent collegiate women’s sports, and softball in particular as it looks to re-enter the Olympic programme. When we showcase the nation’s best of the best in collegiate athletics live on ESPNU, we are delighted to honor an athlete like Keilani,” said Jean Lenti Ponsetto, CWSA Chairwoman of the Board and Athletics Director at DePaul University. “Keilani is a special athlete, and one who is very deserving of the 2013 Honda Cup.”
Ricketts was a finalist for the Honda Cup in 2012, and is a two-time winner of the Honda Sports Award for softball. The University of Oklahoma senior was selected by the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program, now in its 37th year, from a trio of finalists that included basketball’s Elena Delle Donne of the University of Delaware, the 2012 Honda Inspiration Award recipient; and LSU sprinter Kimberlyn Duncan. Also honored were the top Division II athlete, Kari Daugherty of Ashland University, another two-time honoree, and Division III’s Allyson Fournier, a softball player at Tufts University.
“I would like to thank Honda for sponsoring and for the CWSA to appreciate us as collegiate athletes,” said Ricketts. “We really do feel appreciated. I’ve had a blast so far. Congratulations to all of the recipients just because all of them have had amazing seasons. It’s awesome to be able to experience this with them. My teammates helped me stay determined. Winning the Honda Cup has been great to represent my school and my state. I wouldn’t be here without the people of Oklahoma. They have motivated me to be prideful to use softball to represent them well.”
Ricketts led her No 1-ranked Oklahoma team both from the circle and at the plate, taking the Sooners to their second straight Women’s College World Series and the 2013 NCAA title. After pitching a career high 12 innings and bringing her team to a game one win in its best-of-three final series against Tennessee, Ricketts took the night off from the circle in game two, serving as the designated player and hitting a home run with 4 RBIs to help garner the title for the Sooners. Early in the WCWS, to help get her team to the final series, she threw a no-hitter and struck out 12 against Michigan.
A dominating presence at 6-foot-2, she was 35-1 on the season, starting all 56 games (36 at pitcher and 20 at DP), and earned 2013 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year honors. Ricketts ranked No. 8 in the nation in ERA (1.23) and No. 6 in strikeouts (350). She has played for the U.S. National team and came to Oklahoma as the youngest of four athletic children in San Jose, California. Her older sister, Samantha, played for Patty Gasso at Oklahoma before Keilani and it was Samantha who first noticed her 6-foot 13-year old sister could be a special talent. At sports powerhouse high school Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Ricketts played varsity basketball as a freshman and varsity softball not until her sophomore year, when she quickly garnered national attention. She ended her senior prep season 22-0, leading her school to the 2009 national softball championship.
Ricketts, Duncan and Delle Donne emerged as the CWSA’s “Best of the Best” on the Road to the 2013 Honda Cup that included Honda Sports Award Winners in 12-NCAA sanctioned sports. The Collegiate Women Sports Awards has honored the nation’s top NCAA women athletes for 37 years, recognizing superior athletic skills, leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in community service. Since commencing its sponsorship in 1986, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. has provided more than $2.7 million in institutional grants to the universities of the award winners and nominees to support women’s athletics programs at the institutions.
Ricketts’ fellow 2013 Honda Cup winners were also honored this evening, including Iowa State’s Betsy Saina (cross country), Princeton’s Katie Reinprecht (field hockey), North Carolina’s Crystal Dunn (soccer), Oregon’s Alaina Bergsma (volleyball), Georgia’s Allison Schmitt (swimming & diving), Delle Donne, Florida’s Bridget Sloan (gymnastics), USC’s Annie Park (golf), North Carolina’s Kara Cannizzaro (lacrosse), Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs (tennis), and Duncan. The Honda Cup finalists were joined by the 2013 Honda Inspiration Winner, Purdue’s Andrea “Drey” Mingo, Daugherty, and Fournier.
Previous Honda Cup winners include Brittney Griner, Ann Meyers Drysdale, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mia Hamm, Deitre Collins-Parker, Lisa Fernandez, Misty May-Treanor, Courtney Kupets, Maya Moore, and Candace Parker.