NORMAN, Okla. - After ending its grueling seven-game road stretch with six games against top-25 teams, the No. 19 Oklahoma softball team faces a challenge at home this weekend - No. 2 Texas.
The Longhorns and Sooners will open the series on Friday night at 8 p.m. on ESPNU and finish the Red River Showdown Saturday afternoon at 12 p.m. on ESPN. Both games will be played at the OU Softball Complex in Norman, Okla.
The Sooners will appear on national television for the fourth time in a week as OU and Texas will square off on ESPNU (DirecTV Ch. 609) Friday night followed by a nationally televised game on ESPN (Cox Channel 29, OKC) Saturday. Pam Ward (play-by-play) and Lisa Fernandez (color) will be the analysts for both games.
Additionally, the Texas series will be broadcast live with Brian Brinkley providing the play-by-play and Sooner alum Kami Keiter providing color analysis. The action can be heard live on KOKC (1520 AM).
Live stats of both games will be available on SoonerSports.com.
TICKETS AND PROMOTIONS
Seats to this weekend’s games are still available for $10 (reserved), $7 (adult general admission), $5 (youth general admission) and $3 (groups of ten or more must be ordered 24 hrs in advance) at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and at SoonerSports.com. The gates will open an hour and a half before game time.
The first 250 fans through the gates on Friday will receive a Boomer Bobble Head. On Saturday, children attending will have the opportunity to hunt for eggs filled with candy and prizes around the OU Softball Complex. The hunt will start at 11 a.m., an hour before first pitch.
The Sooners will take a break from conference play as it welcomes Tulsa to the OU Softball Complex on Wednesday, April 19 for a 7 p.m. contest. OU returns to Big 12 action April 22-23 as it travels to Iowa State for its final conference road series.
WEEKEND IN REVIEW
Oklahoma faced a daunting four-game schedule on the road this past week as it took on No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 18 Baylor at their respective stadiums. Led by starter D.J. Mathis, the Sooners snapped Texas A&M’s 20-game home conference win streak with a 4-0 shutout of the Aggies on Saturday. However, Oklahoma was held to only one hit in Sunday’s contest as OU fell to Texas A&M, 5-1, for the series split.
The Sooners had little time to rest as they took on Baylor in a doubleheader on Monday and recorded another series split. The first game of the twin bill was an offensive outing on both sides as the Sooners took the game 9-7, despite five home runs by the Bears. The OU offense was slowed in game two as Baylor took the second game, 5-1.
The No. 2 Longhorns (40-4, 7-1 Big 12) sit at the top of the Big 12 heading into this weekend’s action and are coming off a tough week after using two seventh inning rallies to defeat Missouri and dropping its lone Big 12 game of the year to No. 15 Texas A&M. The Red River series will include a great battle with the conference’s best offensive team (Oklahoma) battling the league’s top pitching team (Texas).
It is no secret that Texas also has one of the best players in all of NCAA history in pitcher Cat Osterman, the owner of the NCAA’s career strikeout record. Osterman owns an 0.32 ERA, which is tops in the country, and averages 2.23 strikeouts per inning. The senior lefty is holding opponents to a .080 batting average.
Sophomore right-hander Meagan Denny has shared time with Osterman in the circle as she posts a 1.52 ERA and is limiting opponents to a .162 average. Denny’s last appearance in the circle came in a 4-2 loss to Texas A&M on April 5.
With the addition of hitting coach Corrie Hill, the Longhorns have improved on the offensive side as UT owns a .270 average (fourth in the Big 12) with three Longhorns hitting over .300. Sophomore Desiree Williams is leading the pack with a .379 average, including a team-leading 35 RBI with nine home runs, while leadoff batter Tina Boutelle posts a .319 clip with nine home runs and 25 RBI.
Another Longhorn the Sooner pitching staff must be aware of is first baseman Jacqueline Williams who recorded the game-winning hit in both contests against Missouri. In the first game of the series, Williams used a two run homer in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Horns over the Tigers, 4-3. In Sunday’s action against the Tigers, Williams’ RBI double in the seventh gave Texas the 1-0 victory.
TEXAS SERIES HISTORY
The Sooners own the slight advantage in the all-time series, 16-15, and have won three of the last five contests. The last time Oklahoma was beaten at home by the Longhorns was April 14, 2002. In contests played in Norman, OU holds the 5-3 advantage while the series is tied 5-5 when the series is played in Austin. In neutral contests, OU posts the 4-3 lead over UT.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The last Red River match up between the schools was on May 13, 2005 when seventh-ranked Texas eliminated No. 10 Texas from the Big 12 Tournament with a 3-1 victory over the Sooners. With the score tied 1-1 heading into the seventh inning, UT’s Tina Boutelle pounded an RBI triple to give UT the lead that they would never lose. OU starter Stacy Braddock was valiant in defeat. She worked 6.2 innings allowing seven hits and three runs.
PLAYER TO WATCH: SAMANTHA RICKETTS
Despite being a rookie, this designated player showed veteran power this past weekend. The lefty batted .538 against No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 18 Baylor while pounding five RBI on a .615 slugging percentage.
Ricketts shares the team-best RBI mark with 38 on the year, which ranks third in the Big 12. Additionally, she owns a .361 clip overall and a .400 mark in Big 12 play.
After splitting tough road series against No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 18 Baylor, the Sooners are looking to carry their momentum and offensive power into the Texas series.
The Sooner offense continues to roll as it has been all season. OU is leading the Big 12 in eight different offensive categories, including a conference-best .318 clip and 260 RBI through 43 games. The catalysts for the Sooner offense have been 2005 All-Americans Kristin Vesely (.470, 38 RBI) and Norrelle Dickson (.465, 18 stolen bases).
Additionally, OU has three other Sooners hitting over .300 in Samantha Ricketts (.361, 6 home runs, 38 RBI), Savannah Long (.306, 11 doubles, 22 RBI) and Susan Ogden (.300).
With such a youthful staff, the Oklahoma pitchers have struggled at times but are steadily improving. Freshman D.J. Mathis is coming off her best performance of the season after shutting out Texas A&M, 4-0, this past weekend and only allowing five hits. The freshman lefty is the leader of the five-member staff as she owns a 10-4 record with a 2.59 ERA. Also making strong contributions is fellow freshman Morgan Hudsonpillar who owns a 5-4 record and a 3.23 ERA in 22 appearances.
After splitting the series with No. 15 Texas A&M, the Sooners jumped to No. 19 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll that was released April 11, 2006
Oklahoma appears in the USA Today/NFCA poll for the 150th straight week as the Sooners stayed at No. 21 in the poll released April 12, 2006. The Sooners have been ranked in the top 25 of every NFCA poll since its inception. OU and Arizona are the only programs to be ranked in the NFCA Top-25 every week of its existence.
BIG 12 HISTORY
OU has an all-time record of 144-46 (.758) in Big 12 games .... Oklahoma’s 144 wins and .758 winning percentage in league play is a conference best ... In the league’s 10-year history, OU has won a National Championship (2000), three regular season titles (1996, 1999, 2000) and two Big 12 tournament crowns (1996, 2001) ... No Big 12 school has been to the WCWS more than the Sooners (five times).
OU VS. NCAA FIELD
In addition to leading the Big 12 in offense, the Sooners are also among the top offensive teams, nationally. Below is a look at where Oklahoma stands as a team and individually among NCAA teams as of 4/9/06.
LIGHTS, CAMERA ... DENES
In her two appearances on national television, senior hurler Nicole Denes has put on a show as she owns a 1.62 ERA in two appearances in televised games. Through 8.2 innings of work, Denes has allowed only two earned runs and five hits. Her two appearances came against No. 1 UCLA (2/25) where she gave up two runs on three hits in 5.1 innings and against No. 15 Texas A&M where she gave up no runs on two hits in 3.1 innings.
IT TAKES SEVEN TO WIN
The lucky number for OU this year has been seven as the Sooners are 17-0-1 when scoring seven or more runs in a game. Conversely, Oklahoma is 10-15 when not scoring seven plus runs.
SCORE FIRST = SUCCESS
Scoring first has been a key in OU’s victories this season as the Sooners are 22-3 when getting on the board first and are 16-5 when scoring in the first inning.
SOONERS AGAINST TOP-25
Oklahoma has faced a tough schedule so far this year as the Sooners have played 15 of their 43 games against top-25 competition, winning four of them.
Against top competition, senior Kristin Vesely has been the leader with a .319 clip, including two home runs and 25 total bases with a .6532 slugging percentage.
VESELY SELECTED AS FINALIST FOR USA SOFTBALL POY
Senior center fielder Kristin Vesely has been named one of 25 candidates for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, announced the Amateur Softball Association, the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States. It marks the second consecutive year that Vesely has made the list of 25. Vesely was on the Preseason Watch List that was comprised of 40 players. She was joined by fellow Sooner Norrelle Dickson.
COACHES PICK OKLAHOMA FOURTH IN BIG 12
The University of Oklahoma softball team was picked to finish fourth by the Big 12 coaches in the annual preseason poll. The Sooners received 55 total votes while Texas A&M was tabbed the league favorite with 76 total points. The conference poll was based on a vote by each of the 10 conference head coaches who were not allowed to cast a vote for their own team in the process.
Notable streaks entering the series against Texas:
226 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
150 - Consecutive weeks since the inception of the NFCA Poll that OU has been ranked in the top-25.
12 - Consecutive seasons under Gasso that the Sooners have won their home opener
12 - Consecutive seasons of 40 or more wins, 11 under Gasso.
12 - Consecutive trips to the NCAA postseason
7 - Consecutive wins for OU in the Bedlam Series
6 - Consecutive Regional Championships
3 - Consecutive seasons Gasso has started a freshman at shortstop
SOONERS HEADLINING BIG 12 OFFENSE
OU’s Norrelle Dickson and Kristin Vesely are highlighting the Big 12’s offense so far this season. Vesely leads the Big 12 with a .470 clip while Dickson follows in second with a .465 overall season batting average.
Dickson leads the league with 66 hits each on the season, a 1.53 per game average.
Additionally, Dickson and Vesely are the top two in the conference in runs scored. Dickson leads with 48 scored on the year while Vesely is second with 39 on the season.
Vesely (.538) and Dickson (.533) are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in on base percentage for the conference.
Vesely and freshman Samantha Ricketts are tied for third in the conference with 38 RBI each
The Sooners lead the Big 12 in doubles thanks to Vesely and sophomore Savannah Long. Vesely shares the lead with 12 two-baggers on the year while Long is right behind Vesely with 11 doubles hit on the season.
BIG 12 BEST - PART TWO
Along with individual leaders, the Sooners are also leading the conference in overall team batting with a .318 clip. The Sooners are also tops in on base percentage (.394), runs (260), hits (375), doubles (68), RBI (239) and base on balls (120).
BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS
Senior right fielder Amber Spaulding was named the Big 12’s Player of the Week on March 14 for games played March 6-12. Spaulding led the Sooners to a perfect 5-0 record and .529 (9-for-17) with 13 RBI, including a home run in four consecutive games.
Senior center fielder Kristin Vesely was named the Big 12’s Co-Player of the Week for games played Feb. 13-19. Vesely split the honor with Texas’ Tina Boutelle. Vesely put together a 12-for-16 outing at the plate in all six games with a .750 batting average, including nine RBI and 10 runs scored.
Sophomore Savannah Long is the lone Sooner to start at the same position (second base) for the entire year and one of only three Sooners to start all 43 games this season. Senior Kristin Vesely has started 40 games in center field and three at catcher while junior Norrelle Dickson has 36 starts in left field and seven at third base.
SWITCHING IT UP
Oklahoma returns only four starters from last year’s Regional 14 Champion squad, but not all of the returnees will appear in the same position this spring. Sophomore Savannah Long was a consistent starter at shortstop in 2005, but has made the switch to the right side of the infield this season where she has seen all of her time at second base. Junior All-American (third team) Norrelle Dickson uses her speed mostly in left field this season after spending her first two seasons at shortstop and third base for the Sooners.
Junior Jamie Fox was a consistent starter in right field last season and has seen six starts in the same position, in addition to appearances in left field (seven starts), but most of her time has come in the designated player spot (18 starts). Senior Kristin Vesely was expected to be the lone consistency in the outfield where she has started most of her career. However, Vesely has also started three games at catcher.
Junior Norrelle Dickson is having another stellar season as the leadoff batter for the Sooners. In 2005, Dickson earned All-America honors after posting a .361 clip (70-189) while averaging 1.06 hits per game with 10 RBI total on the season.
The left fielder is even more impressive in 2006 as she owns a .465 clip (second in Big 12) while averaging a Big 12-best1.53 hits per game and has already surpassed last season’s RBI mark with 18 through 43 games in 2006. Below is a look at how Dickson stacks up against other top leadoff batters in the conference: