With a strong rooting interest on both sides of the field, the dilemma of what color to wear — green or crimson — has a pretty simple solution for Jeff and Carol Ricketts.
When the Hawaii and Oklahoma softball teams last met in 2009, the Ricketts family was represented in both dugouts in UH’s Stephanie, then a freshman, and OU senior Samantha.
The Rainbow Wahine and Sooners are scheduled to play again today in California with Stephanie now in her junior year at Hawaii and younger sister Keilani a sophomore standout for Oklahoma.
"I had a shirt made for the last time they met up," Carol Ricketts said. "The shirt is half red, half green and on the back it says ‘Ricketts 10,’ because they’re both No. 10."
The proud parents will stake out a spot in the middle of the stands when Hawaii (11-1), ranked 10th and 11th in this week’s national polls, takes on Oklahoma (11-1), sixth in both rankings, today in the Cathedral City Classic just outside of Palm Springs, Calif. The game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Hawaii time.
It’s the first of four games in the tournament for the Rainbow Wahine. Hawaii’s preset schedule includes games against No. 18/22 Nebraska (10-1) and Syracuse (7-1) tomorrow and Virginia (6-3) on Saturday.
Stephanie and Keilani Ricketts enter the tournament as the top pitchers for their respective teams, but whether they’ll both take the circle today isn’t guaranteed.
UH head coach Bob Coolen said he’d review Oklahoma’s lineup before deciding whether the right-handed Ricketts (6-1, 2.89 ERA) or left-hander Kaia Parnaby (4-0, 1.35) would be the better matchup against the Sooners, who are hitting .399 as a team and average 9.4 runs per game.
But he conceded that, "I think everybody in the country is anticipating Ricketts vs. Ricketts."
Oklahoma faces Georgia — No. 1 in this week’s NFCA poll — immediately prior to playing the Wahine. So Keilani’s availability might hinge on Sooners coach Patty Gasso’s approach against the Bulldogs.
"It’s going to be fun for us," Carol Ricketts said. "Whether they get in to pitch or not, I don’t know. Hopefully they’ll get at least one inning and that’ll be fun to watch."
Stephanie threw to Keilani during scrimmages at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., but they haven’t pitched against each other in the same game.
It appeared the Ricketts sisters would face off in last year’s Cathedral City Classic, but that game was rained out. The next time they were in the same ballpark, Keilani and Samantha, now a graduate assistant on the Oklahoma coaching staff, were decked out in UH gear to cheer on Stephanie in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Stephanie said the prospect of facing her sister this season hasn’t come up much in their conversations.
"We haven’t really talked about it at all," she said. "We talk about the games we’ve been playing, we’ll call each other up and talk about who we just played, but we’ve never really talked about us playing against each other."
The last game between the Wahine and Sooners does tend to pop up around the house, though.
Stephanie didn’t play in Hawaii’s season-opening victory over Oklahoma in 2009, but faced Samantha in the Sooners’ win two days later.
"They still dwell on that last game because Stephanie ended up striking out her older sister and it was on a called strike," Carol Ricketts said. "They go at it on that one."
All three sisters have enjoyed decorated college softball careers. Samantha was a two-time second-team All-American at Oklahoma. Stephanie was the Western Athletic Conference pitcher of the year last season when Keilani was an NFCA second-team All-American.
So far this season, Keilani, a lefty, is 5-0 with 57 strikeouts in 30 innings and a 1.40 ERA. Stephanie, a righty, has 55 strikeouts in 46 innings and is coming off a one-hit performance in a 2-0 win over UC Riverside on Tuesday.
"I have no idea how it’ll turn out," Carol Ricketts said of the overall matchup between the Wahine and Sooners. "They both compete really well."
Adding to a busy weekend at the ballpark, Jeff Ricketts will fly to Colorado on Friday to attend the Air Force football banquet with son Rick, a senior defensive end for the Falcons last fall. Jeff will then fly back to Palm Springs to catch Saturday’s games.
More family ties
UH center fielder Kelly Majam’s family might have a similarly long weekend at the park. Majam’s younger sister, Mari, is a freshman outfielder with Northwestern. The Wildcats have games against Nevada and Florida State before UH’s two games tomorrow.