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Oklahoma's Kinzie Hansen Demands Greatness From Herself

(Photo by Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Oklahoma Sooners are coming off a historic season that resulted in the program's fifth national championship in 2021. One of the significant pieces of that championship run was catcher Kinzie Hansen, who capped off an impressive campaign from both sides of the plate.

Hitting .438 with 24 home runs and 66 RBI last spring, Hansen ranked third in RBI in the nation behind teammates Tiare Jennings (92) and Jocelyn Alo (89). And her season behind the plate was just as productive, as she finished with a .990 fielding percentage, registering 279 putouts and caught five runners stealing.

For Hansen—who just recently earned a spot on Team USA—catching is an art, and her goal is to be the best catcher in the nation.

"I feel like catching is an art," Hansen said. "I don't think a lot of people describe their sport as an art, but to me, I take pride in what I do a lot. So, when I am at the field putting in extra work or doing things like that, it's more about me working on my artwork. I take pride in it, so I'm going to be the best I can be."

For Hansen, another part of catching is building relationships and chemistry with her pitchers. One of those pitchers is sophomore Nicole May, who had experience playing with Hansen before the two arrived in Norman, Okla.

Their history playing travel ball together in California has helped grow their chemistry and allows Hansen to be honest with May when she's throwing in the circle.

"She's a very outgoing person, in general," May said. "Having her behind the plate, she's not afraid to come out and say, 'You need to hit this spot.' She definitely says what she needs to say, and holds everybody and herself accountable."

Due to COVID-19 shutting down the 2020 season prematurely, Hansen made her postseason debut along with May last spring. The chemistry between the two helped May when she started the first game of the championship series against Florida State. Hansen's assurance of having May's back undoubtedly helped her throughout the season and that game.

Hansen's success extended at the plate, as May describes Hansen flipping a switch and her offense started to heat up after the Big 12 Championship. When the Sooners got to the WCWS, Hansen's hot streak at the plate continued, and she ultimately helped Oklahoma capture the national championship.

"I saw a switch flip in her after the Big 12 Tournament," May said. "Something just switched, and after that, she was unstoppable, it felt like. You could feel that. Being on the field with her, being in the dugout, being on her team. You could just feel that."

One of the memorable moments of the 2021 season for Hansen was a diving catch she made against James Madison.

"Since I was a kid, I did that at least 20 times every catching lesson I ever had," Hansen said. "Like on turf, I was bloodied, in shorts, like skin missing, so when I did it in a game, it was kind of a full-circle moment. Like the home runs, don't get me wrong, I live for that stuff. I love it. But I've only made that catch in foul territory twice in my life, so that was pretty sick."

In addition to that catch, her home runs against JMU and FSU in the championship series helped propel the Sooners to another national championship. Hansen tells Softball America that her mentality separates her from other hitters.

With Shannon Saile and Giselle Juarez both graduating, Oklahoma adds redshirt senior pitcher Hope Trautwein and the No. 1 freshman in the nation in pitcher Jordyn Bahl to its pitching staff. Hansen tells Softball America that with the physicality of their pitching styles, she'll change her catching style to help make the staff as successful as it can be.

"My adaptation to their pitching style is very important," Hansen said. "If someone is throwing drop balls, I can switch my framing to a different position, and it gets the strike every time. Once the pitcher can trust me with that, then they'll take off with success. That's really my job, to make them successful."

As the defending national champions enter the 2022 season with a revamped pitching rotation and the rest of the starting lineup returning, Hansen expects greatness from her team.

"I don't even care who comes in and who leaves or whatever," she said. "We're going to be great no matter what. Yeah, we expect to win, we do. This team is very hard working. There's greatness on this field."

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