'Enough is enough': How OU softball's Kinzie Hansen is working to turning her season around

Ryan Aber
Oklahoman
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NORMAN — The time for an honest, no-holds-barred conversation had come.

It wasn’t going to be easy but it had to happen, for the good of the OU catcher that had been scuffling at the plate and in her mind for the better part of two months.

“Enough is enough,” the voice said, strongly and clearly. “You’re better than this. It’s time to go.”

The setting wasn’t the most glamorous — the floor of Kinzie Hansen’s bathroom — but someone needed to get through to Hansen, and it needed to happen quickly before the softball season completely got away from her.

And the person who should deliver that message was clear as well.

It was Hansen herself, the junior who was a star of the postseason a year ago and had been named to the USA Softball Women’s National Team earlier this season but had been mired in a protracted slump after returning from injury.

“I feel like I know myself better than anyone else,” Hansen said. “And it’s just something that I do regularly, to check in with myself. That was the time when I needed to change my mentality.”

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OU's Kinzie Hansen (9) gestures after driving in three runs on a double in the third inning of a 6-0 Bedlam win against OSU on May 6 at Marita Hynes Field in Norman.

As the top-ranked Sooners open the NCAA postseason, beginning against Prairie View A&M at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Norman Regional opener at Marita Hynes Field, Hansen’s talk with herself shows signs of paying off.

And if Hansen is hot, OU’s chances of pulling off a repeat Women’s College World Series championship look much better.

“You can feel her at practice gaining her confidence,” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said. “Her swing looks … she’s not swinging as hard or as pressed or trying to get that big, big swing and chasing pitches all over the place. She’s a little more controlled now and (I) think she’s going to be definitely a force going into this weekend.”

Last season, Hansen hit 24 home runs to finish fifth in the country. She finished the season on a 15-game hitting streak. In the WCWS, she hit .357 with three home runs and eight RBIs to help fuel the championship run.

But March 18, when Hansen returned from a knee injury that kept her out of the Sooners’ games in Hawaii, that spark she gave OU for much of last season wasn’t there. 

“Hitting is all mental,” Hansen said. “And I feel like when people talk about physical injuries or things like that, the mental side isn’t addressed as much. I feel like mental strength is something I bring to the team. 

“I feel as if some of those issues, nobody knows how to work through it. … So coming back, the mental battle of not falling into those things, not falling into the doubt and thinking about your issue and things like that (was difficult)."

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In the 23 games between her return and the talk with herself, Hansen went just 5 for 49 (.102) at the plate. All but one of those hits — an April 16 home run at Texas — were singles.

“Obviously you can — everybody can — look at my stats and know that after I came back, it was a little murky,” Hansen said. “But I finally said, ‘Enough.’ I finally said, ‘Enough mental games, I’m done,’ and I think it shows.”

Hansen’s final at-bat before the talk, she grounded out to second.

She started the next game by grounding into a fielder’s choice, to extend her streak of at-bats without a hit to 17, but in her second at-bat Hansen ripped a three-run double to left-center.

Hansen hasn’t been perfect at the plate since, but she has hits in three of the last four games and her defense makes her invaluable in the lineup.

A year ago, Hansen used the fact she didn’t make the All-Big 12 team to fuel her postseason run, calling missing that team her “Michael Jordan moment.”

“I don’t know if you’ve seen the Michael Jordan show (The Last Dance), but he’s always like, ‘I took it personal,’” Hansen said. “Last year, I took that and I ran with it and honestly it helped me flip my script.”

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Oklahoma's Hope Trautwein (7) celebrates with Kinzie Hansen (9) following the Big 12 Softball tournament game between the Oklahoma and Iowa State at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 13, 2022.

This year, that motivation is coming internally.

The feeling is similar, though.

If the results are similar, Hansen will be able to look back at that night on the bathroom floor, when she decided she was done dancing around the issue, as the turning point.

“I’m not a self-doubter at all,” Hansen said. “But for some reason, injury takes you for a whirl.

“So I sat down with myself, which I feel like a lot of people don’t do. It’s very beneficial.”

More:NCAA Softball Tournament regional and Women's College World Series predictions

Norman Regional

Friday's games at Marita Hynes Field:

► Texas A&M (29-26) vs. Minnesota (26-24-1), 4 p.m. (ESPN2)

► No. 1 OU (49-2) vs. Prairie View A&M (20-27), 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

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