Gasso's Core 5: Kinzie Hansen Led Oklahoma by Example With 'Tenacity'

The OU co-captain never backed down from a challenge throughout her playing career with the Sooners.
Jun 5, 2024; Oklahoma City, OK, USA;  Oklahoma Sooners catcher Kinzie Hansen (9) claps as she rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run in the third inning against the Texas Longhorns during game one of the Women's College World Series softball championship finals at Devon Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2024; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners catcher Kinzie Hansen (9) claps as she rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run in the third inning against the Texas Longhorns during game one of the Women's College World Series softball championship finals at Devon Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports / Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kinzie Hansen brought a different aura behind the plate. 

Opposing batters stepping in to take on an Oklahoma pitcher had to always worry about the OU hurler the past four years, but there was an intense presence emanating from Hansen that also had to be checked. 

The 6-foot-0 catcher from Norco, CA, sported a game face that channeled her intense focus, and had a cannon for a right arm to put any baserunner on high alert. 

And then came her exploits at the plate. 

She belted 60 career home runs, including a host of clutch bombs to propel the Sooners. 

In 2023, her two-strike, two-out blast gave the Sooners new life in Game 2 of their Super Regional matchup against Clemson, extending OU’s record winning streak. 

She opened up Love’s Field with late game heroics against Miami (OH), and again delivered on the biggest stage most recently against Texas. 

Hansen was voted a captain of the 2024 OU squad, serving alongside Tiare Jennings, in one of the hardest leadership jobs the sport has seen as Oklahoma tried to manage the pressure weighing over its historic campaign. 

“This is a tough team to be a captain of,” OU coach Patty Gasso said after the Sooners won their fourth-straight title last week. “They've done a really great job with that.”

Hansen actually experienced one season in Norman without a title. 


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Another team didn’t knock off OU, but her true freshman year was cut short by COVID 19. 

She returned in 2021, and started the Sooners out on their unprecedented reign over the sport. 

Four titles with four different teams bring four unique sets of memories, but Hansen said she was able to soak in the most recent championship that closed as the perfect final act to her collegiate career. 

“This one, to me, I definitely felt a little bit more sentimental,” she said last week. “We grew up together.

“… I'm so, so proud of this team, and everyone had their hand in it. It was never one hero at the plate or on the mound or anything like that. This was a team effort. We fought all season.

“Everybody had something to say about us all the time. People counted us out. It was just a grind. All in mentally, physically. We fought the whole year.”

Hansen and Jennings experienced more losing in 2024 than ever before, though it was a mere seven games. 

But throughout the struggles, both remained true to themselves. 

Jennings has always sported a calm, though not reserved attitude toward softball.

She consistently preached the need for sticking to the grind, regardless of if the Sooners were victorious or not.



Hansen is a hard worker too, though she brought a bit more bite. 

“The Sooners play best after we get punched in the mouth,” Hansen said after OU lost to Florida and moved within one defeat of the season coming to an end. 

Respectful but confident, two themes that described Hansen throughout her career — even if it sometimes made Gasso laugh. 

“Hansen, who is like the brute,” Gasso said. “Punch us in the mouth. I'm like, Don't do that, don't do that. But that's Hansen.”

Hansen’s toughness was always on full display, even if she had to battle her body.

Much of her 2022 season was marred by injury, and Hansen missed a stretch of time in 2024 when knee issues returned. 

“My biggest struggle this season was definitely more on the physical side,” she said. “… Just kind of learning to fight through that, go through. Like we said, this team has fought and fought all season long. I hope being in the leadership role this year, when I was fighting through that, I was able to lead by example.”

But she got healthy, and her bat fueled Oklahoma at times down the stretch.

This isn’t goodbye for Hansen in Norman, either.

The former Johnny Bench Catcher of the Year is sticking around as a graduate assistant next year, where she can continue to pass on her library of knowledge to the next generation of Sooner catchers. 

She’ll embrace that new role as she has every new twist and turn that’s been thrown her way throughout a decorated career. 

The dust has settled on her playing days at Oklahoma, however, and she hopes she’s left an imprint that can be carried by the next generation into the Southeastern Conference. 

“The legacy that we kind of wanted to show them was to leave it all on the field every day, never take it for granted,” Hansen said. “… Just being able to show them what true tenacity looks like, showing them to never give up and never give in. 

“Just no matter how much your body hurts, how many L’s you take, how much you get punched in the mouth, like I said the other day, always to get back up and to always keep going.”


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Ryan Chapman

RYAN CHAPMAN

Ryan is deputy editor at AllSooners and covers a number of sports in and around Norman and Oklahoma City. Working both as a journalist and a sports talk radio host, Ryan has covered the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team, the Oklahoma City Energy and more. Since 2019, Ryan has simultaneously pursued a career as both a writer and a sports talk radio host, working for the Flagship for Oklahoma sports, 107.7 The Franchise, as well as AllSooners.com. Ryan serves as a contributor to The Franchise’s website, TheFranchiseOK.com, which was recognized as having the “Best Website” in 2022 by the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters. Ryan holds an associate’s degree in Journalism from Oklahoma City Community College in Oklahoma City, OK.