OU Softball: Oklahoma P Karlie Keeney 'Shined' Pitching With 'Nothing to Lose' Mentality

Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso was thrilled with how Karlie Keeney performed in Bedlam, giving the Sooners "great options" as OU heads into this weekend's Big 12 Tournament.

NORMAN — Karlie Keeney has never had trouble staying ready. 

The graduate transfer right-hander who started 75 games in four years at Liberty has shown she can be excellent out of the bullpen as well. 

Making the switch to Oklahoma for her final year, Keeney has made 25 appearances, but only four of those outings have come from the start. 

The shift in roles hasn’t phased Keeney, and she’s been the Sooners’ best option in relief as a result. 

“I don’t really get too high, I don’t really get too low,” Keeney said on Tuesday. “I feel I ride a pretty constant wave.”

Kelly Maxwell, Kierston Deal and Nicole May have handled a majority of the starts for OU since Big 12 play started. The triumvirate has been excellent from the jump, but have struggled to yield the same results when called upon out of the bullpen. 

Last weekend, Bedlam was a microcosm of conference play. 

Keeney was Oklahoma’s only pitcher on Friday and Saturday to keep the Cowgirls off the board, earning her the chance to start Sunday’s finale. 

Karlie Keeney was the only Oklahoma pitcher to not surrender a run to Oklahoma State this past weekend.
Karlie Keeney was the only Oklahoma pitcher to not surrender a run to Oklahoma State this past weekend. / SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

Deal allowed three runs on three hits and a walk after facing only six Cowgirl batters in relief on Friday. 

Saturday, it was Maxwell’s turn to struggled shutting down the game. She allowed another three runs on two hits and a walk, only pitching a single inning. 

Keeney, in contrast, registered two strikeouts and allowed no hits in 3 1/3 combined innings across the first two games of the series. 

She dealt with more traffic on the bases in Sunday’s start, but trusted her defense to work out of any sticky situations. 

WATCH: Patty Gasso's Press Conference Previewing the Big 12 Tournament
WATCH: Karlie Keeney and Ella Parker's Press Conference Previewing the Big 12 Tournament

Oklahoma State’s only runs came after Keeney was temporarily withdrawn for Deal in the sixth inning. The Cowgirls hit three consecutive singles to load the bases with no outs, prompting Patty Gasso and pitching coach Jennifer Rocha to return to Keeney. 

Two of Deal’s runners scored when Keeney gave up a single, but she limited the damage to those two runs to prevent the Cowgirls from taking the lead. 

“A lot of these seniors I think they’re just kind of saying this is it,” Gasso said. “They’re either gonna do one or the other. They’re either going to go, ‘oh my gosh this is it.’ 

“… Or they’re gonna say I’m going for it. I’ve got nothing to lose. That’s Karlie right now.”

Adjusting from starting a majority of her games at Liberty to coming in to close down games for the Sooners isn’t the only mental battle Keeney has fought this season. 

She injured her hand during OU’s first practice last fall, requiring surgery on her pinky. 

Feeling 100 percent both physically and mentally has been a battle all year for Keeney, but she said Oklahoma fans finally saw the best version of herself on Sunday.

“At the beginning it was definitely physical,” Keeney said. “But I think it was also giving myself grace and mentally being like, ‘Okay yeah, realistically I did only have surgery six months ago.’ Kind of giving myself to work back into it. 

“And, you know, it’s a struggle because I’m used to not struggling like that so I think I really tried to focus on being a good teammate and cheering on my other pitchers.”

Keeney’s teammates have given her plenty to cheer about in 2024.

Despite allowing 12 combined runs through the first two games of last weekend’s series, OU still ranks in the top 10 nationally in staff ERA. 

Maxwell, Deal and May have shown throughout the year they have the ability to command the first five innings of contests. 

In Austin, the Sooner pitching staff limited Texas, who ranks first in team batting average in the country, to just six runs in three games. But Gasso will need Keeney firing on all cylinders to close out wins in the postseason. 

Last year, Jordy Bahl was excellent in relief to snatch any hope from opponents for a dramatic comeback late. 

Keeney will need to continue to thrive in that role over the next month to fire Oklahoma to an unprecedented fourth-straight national title. 

“She’s just waiting for her turn,” said Gasso, “and she’s just a wonderful example of a good team player and a hard worker and everything you would want out of a pitcher or just an athlete. 

“It was almost kind of a matter of time when this was going to be her time and she grabbed it. She shined and gives us some great options going forward.”

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.