By Chelsey Kraft
Big12 Campus Correspondent
A team mom serves to remind her teammates of what time they have to be somewhere, what they need to wear, when they need to turn in something and everything in between.
For the University of Oklahoma softball team, senior pitcher Michelle Gascoigne fills that role.
“Not that I have everything together myself, but I’m always the one reminding everybody,” Gascoigne admits. “They kind of joke around when I say those types of things, and they say, ‘Okay, Mom, I get it.’”
Senior catcher Jessica Shults thinks these reminders are helpful to the team.
“We make fun of her for being the mom, but we really need her as the mom on the team because no one else really does that,” Shults explains. “It’s nice having her remind us, and if someone is getting sick, she always has stuff for that, too.”
This motherly personality is one she has always had, as even her friends back home will sometimes call her ‘Mom,’ shares Gascoigne. The elementary education major plans to become a teacher, and this personality trait fits with that career ambition.
“I was one of those people who grew up loving school,” Gascoigne says. “I had a lot of good teachers growing up, and I had come from a family of teachers – my mom teaches preschool – so it is something that fit naturally for me and my personality.”
School was not Gascoigne’s only love as she began playing her sport at a young age. The Benicia, Calif.-native started playing t-ball at the age of five and pitching when she was seven years old. She was not yet old enough to play in the pitching league, but she knew that spot was the one she wanted to play, so she decided to be prepared.
On the field, Gascoigne has shined so far in her senior season, leading the nation with a 0.85 ERA and boasting a 15-1 record as of April 19. She and with reigning USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts comprise one of college softball’s best pitching duos.
“I bring depth to our pitching staff, and the teams that we face aren’t going to see just one look from our pitchers,” Gascoigne says. “I think with that it also brings confidence in our team, and us as a pair, that if one of us isn’t getting the job done, we are going to be okay because the other will come in and work things out to keep us in the game.”
After figuring “a lot of things” out during the Big 12 schedule last year, Gascoigne explains she wanted to carry her mentality from the end of last season into this season.
“I feel like every other season I’ve had ups and downs, and this one I have had a good start,” she says. “I’ve been really confident, and it’s nice to be confident.”
Gascoigne’s dad, Gary, who served as her pitching coach growing up along with professional Rich Balswick, thinks dominance has been the key to his daughter’s success this season.
“I think that she has just become more dominant in her outings than in others she has had, in limiting the runs and getting more wins,” he says. “She has always been a dominant pitcher at every level she’s ever played.”
Gary describes his daughter as loyal and responsible, and he says that Gascoigne’s high school teammates always leaned on her for guidance. She has carried those traits into her Sooner career and grown in those areas.
Aside from on-field accomplishments, Gascoigne has succeeded in other areas at OU, which is something her father says he is “extremely proud of.”
Some of these include serving as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council this year, being recognized as the recipient of the peer-awarded Sooner Oath Award, participating as a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, earning Academic All-Big 12 first team honors in 2011 and 2012 and being named to the All-America Scholar Athletes by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association for the 2011-12 academic year.
Recently, the Chicago Bandits selected Gascoigne in the 2013 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft, making her one of a school-record four Sooners to be chosen.
Gary shares that his daughter knew all the names of all the athletes in the professional league, then the Women’s Pro Softball League, when it first started when she was around 10 years old.
Michelle would sit in her bedroom and look at the athletes’ websites, and she knew all her idols and their names, Gary explains. Growing up, Gascoigne remembers doing this, but she admits that she did not always realize she might have the opportunity to join the league.
“I can’t say that I never dreamed of it, but I never in the past couple of years thought it was a possibility for me,” Gascoigne says. “It’s a great opportunity to continue my career because I feel like I am starting to figure things out on the mound, and I didn’t want to stop here.”
For now, Gascoigne has the rest of her senior season on which to focus. There’s plenty of time for her to continue to shine academically, on the field and as the team’s mom.