Oklahoma's Nicole May Readies For First College Softball Season
Nicole May did not care for softball when she first started playing the sport at nine years old. She did not understand what her coaches were saying about the game and did not enjoy her time on the field.
After her parents moved her to a different league, however, that all changed and she fell in love with the game. Today, she’s ready to take the field as an Oklahoma Sooner for her freshman season as Softball America's No. 4 recruit in the 2020 class.
During her junior year in high school, May went 24-0 in the circle with a 0.32 ERA and 246 strikeouts. She was also named the 2018-2019 California Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, the 2019 NorCal Softball Pitcher of the Year and is one of three freshmen softball Sooners this season from the OC Batbusters. Her travel ball and now Sooner teammates, Tiare Jennings and Zaida Puni, were also highly sought-after recruits.
“It was awesome being able to play on the Batbusters because not only was I able to play with really talented players, but I was also playing with future teammates,” May said. “Not only did I play with Tiare and Zaida who are in my class, but I also played with Kinzie (Hansen), Olivia (Rains) and Alanna (Thiede). I think it definitely helped the transition to college because I already knew and was comfortable with these people."
Oklahoma is a journey from California, but the leadership of head coach Patty Gasso and the storied tradition of Oklahoma softball played a big role in drawing May to Norman.
“The culture, the home environment, it comes from her,” May said. “I’ve heard a lot of softball players that have gone through the program talking about how (with) Coach Gasso, you come in as a girl and you leave as a woman. She’s really big on building character. I think that she does anything that she can to help her players.”
The Sooner squad that Gasso has this season is a mix of rookies and veterans. One of the team's key veterans is Nicole Mendes, a redshirt senior who has played more games at the Women's College World Series than most softball programs nationwide, including as a member of Oklahoma's championship squad in 2017. For May, Mendes is a teammate to learn from.
“By listening to her and talking to her, you get a different perspective that you might not have seen before or you just understand things that you haven’t seen before because whatever it is she’s been there, she’s felt it, she’s seen it,” May added.
Along with leaders to learn from like Mendes, what May enjoys most about being a Sooner is the mindset every player on the team has.
“I’ve never met such a good group of people that want to just work hard every day at practice and are doing things with a purpose, and then off the field, they’re even better people,” May said. “It’s just such an amazing group.”
Before joining Coach Gasso's squad at Oklahoma, May had what she called an “aha” moment in high school when faced with the challenge of balancing life and softball. Today, she has advice for any high school athlete in a similar position.
“I would say just make sure you’re doing everything that you’re doing for yourself, don’t try to please other people or your parents or whoever it may be,” May said. “Make sure that you’re still having fun with everything. Make sure that you’re still enjoying things outside of softball (because) not everything is about softball.”