Gasso's Core 5: Nicole May Stayed and Left 'Special' Legacy at Oklahoma

The right-hander ascended as a leader of OU's pitching staff on and off the field over the last four years in Norman.
Oklahoma pitcher Nicole May (19) pitches in the first inning during a Women’s College World Series semifinal game between Oklahoma (OU) and Florida at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, on Monday, June 3, 2024.
Oklahoma pitcher Nicole May (19) pitches in the first inning during a Women’s College World Series semifinal game between Oklahoma (OU) and Florida at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, on Monday, June 3, 2024. / NATHAN J. FISH/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

OKLAHOMA CITY — In an era defined by the transfer portal, Nicole May is the one who stayed. 

After starting the sport’s first contest on ABC — a Super Regional victory over Washington in 2021 — May saw Hope Trautwein, Alex Storako, Jordy Bahl, Kelly Maxwell and others join the team. 

She never complained about how many innings she got or a set role on the staff, instead trusting that OU pitching coach Jennifer Rocha and head coach Patty Gasso had a plan. 

So when Gasso opted for Karlie Keeney to start last week’s decisive championship clincher over Texas, of course May was just worried about doing her job. 

Five of Oklahoma’s pitchers — Keeney, Paytn Monticelli, Kierston Deal, May and Kelly Maxwell — all saw action in the 8-4 win over Texas, one that clinched the program’s fourth consecutive national title. 

“I felt very free coming into today just knowing that it was going to be the last time hat I was going to be touching this dirt, so it was just very freeing,” May said in the midst of the postgame party on the field at Devon Park last Thursday. “We talked about it before the game. Our goal was to just pass the ball to the next pitcher. We wanted to get everybody in.”

Throughout her career, May’s role changed at Oklahoma.

As a freshman, she came alive down the stretch to play a big role in OU’s Bedlam Series victory and powering the Sooners through Regional and Super Regional action. 

As a sophomore, she was the ice to Bahl’s fire, forming a powerful trio with Trautwein until Bahl missed the postseason and the veteran duo had to carry the load for OU. 

Last year she again played foil to Bahl while helping welcome Storako into a championship caliber staff before setting the tone as a leader for a revamped 2024 bullpen that needed to get Maxwell, Keeney and Monticelli acclimated to life in Norman. 

“She’s like the matriarch of this pitching staff and she’s earned it and deserved it,” Gasso said of May back in February. 

In her final season as a Sooner, May battled though a lot. 

With another year of film on her, she finished with a 2.59 ERA, the lowest mark of her career, but still racked up a 14-3 record. 

She retired five straight batters to close out Texas in the Big 12 Tournament Championship, and then went six up, six down against Florida State in Super Regional play to end the Seminoles’ season and fire OU back to Oklahoma City. 

“I have been with her since she was a kid,” Gasso said of May after the win over Florida State. “And you now watch her in these moments and I think Nicole has been unfairly judged and she knows that we've got her back and we've got her support. This is a great example of coming in and just being an absolute boss on the mound and getting it done for the Sooners. 

“So there's no one in that moment that I would rather have than Nicole May because of her hard work and her professionalism as an athlete, but her absolute commitment and loyalty to this program."

May’s commitment earned her a unique shot at history. 

She stayed alongside Tiare Jennings, Kinzie Hanse, Rylie Boone and Jayda Coleman. 

And she won an unprecedented fourth national title at Oklahoma. 

“Pretty lucky to say I’ve played on here the last four years,” May said on Thursday. “… It goes by so quick. Alumni tell you when you come in here that it’s going to be gone in the blink of an eye. When you’re in it, it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like long days. 

“But to be able to go four for four hasn’t been done before. It’s pretty special to be a part of a woman’s sport that’s breaking glass ceilings, being a part of a team that’s breaking glass ceilings for the sport. … It’s pretty special.”


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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.