Jan. 20, 2010
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma enters the 2010 season as defending Big 12 champions and head coach Patty Gasso hopes the trend continues. Another tough schedule awaits the Sooners as Oklahoma faces 21 teams from the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
“As usual, we have another very demanding schedule. We wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Gasso. “We will be road tested early as we open our season against two of the nation’s top teams in Michigan and Tennessee. Our schedule only gets more challenging with five Pac-10 teams, but it’s our belief that a tough road schedule makes for a tough team. We enjoy those opportunities. Our fans will be treated to some exciting Big 12 home games. This team is anxious to get the season started.”
The Sooners return 12 letterwinners from 2009 and welcome five newcomers. OU returns an efficient offensive lineup from top to bottom and a sound defense core. Among those returning are the 2009 Big 12 Player of the Year and six all-Big 12 selections from a year ago.
“Consistency is something we’re going to strive for this year,” said Gasso. “We need consistency as a team and individually. I should be saying that a concern is this freshman class and how they will adjust to the collegiate level, but that is not an issue. They are a very seasoned and mature group.”
An area where Oklahoma returns youthful experience is at pitching. With a pair of sophomores and two freshmen, the Sooners are laying a foundation for years to come.
“We’re all excited about the depth we have at the position,” Gasso said. “The amount of innings Kirsten (Allen) and Allee (Allen) were able to get last year should factor into their success this year. They threw some big games for us. Keilani (Ricketts) is going to be very special. She’s learned a lot this fall. Michelle (Gascoigne) is really going to surprise some people. She had a fantastic fall.”
The Sooner lineup is full of viable options for Gasso and her staff. Oklahoma returns 89.3 percent of its runs from a year ago and 85 percent of hits accumulated during 2009. While the leadoff spot is expected to be occupied by a placement hitter, most of the other positions look to be occupied by power hitters. For OU, the 2010 lineup could easily be a multiple choice question where every answer is the right one. Needless to say, it is a good problem to have.
“Jessica (Shults), Amber (Flores), Lindsey (Vandever) are all going to be in the heart of the lineup, scoring and bringing in runs,” Gasso added. “Keilani has amazing power. Haley (Nix) has quick hands and a beautiful swing. With this lineup, a great hitter like Katie Norris may be hitting towards the bottom. This lineup is packed top to bottom.”
Returners:Allen Allen (Soph.) and Kirsten Allen (Soph.)
Newcomers: Michelle Gascoigne (Fr.) and Keilani Ricketts (Fr.)
After gaining valuable experience a year ago, Allee Allen and Kirsten Allen return as veteran sophomores in 2010. While Allee Allen returns following off-season shoulder surgery, Kirsten Allen looks to improve following an excellent fall season. With All-American D.J. Mathis out of the lineup for almost a month in 2009, the Sooners relied heavily on the Allens to carry the team during the span. Allee Allen went 14-4, while Kirsten Allen posted a 9-8 mark. The two combined for 232.2 innings pitched, 61.4 percent of Oklahoma’s 378.1 innings pitched. Strikingly different, the duo provides an unusual combination to the battery. Allee Allen is one of three left-handed pitchers on the 2010 team, while Kirsten Allen is the only righty on the staff.
Michelle Gascoigne comes to Oklahoma after being named the Vallejo Times Herald Female Athlete and Softball Player of the Year in 2009. The Benicia (Calif.) High School product ended her high school career with 1,026 strikeouts, 13 career no-hitters and 52 career shutouts.
One of the most anticipated arrivals at Oklahoma is freshman Keilani Ricketts. The sister of former Oklahoma All-American Samantha Ricketts, the younger Ricketts packs a punch on both sides of the ball. The 2009 EA Sports/ESPN RISE National Player of the Year and California’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Ricketts posted a 22-0 record and a 0.10 earned run average as senior, leading Archbishop Mitty High School to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association high school national championship. Also a 2009 EA Sports first team All-American and San Jose Mercury News Player of the Year, Ricketts hit .456 in her final season. She also led her travel ball team, the Sorcerer GOLD (Phil) to the 2009 Amateur Softball Association 18U GOLD National Championship.
Returners: Lindsey Vandever (Sr.)
Newcomers: Jessica Shults (Fr.)
Team captain Lindsey Vandever anchors the Oklahoma battery for the 2010 a season. An All-Big 12 second team honoree in 2009, Vandever brings a solid bat and equally solid defense to the squad. Vandever hit .302 as a junior and drove in 48 runs. Her 28 walks drawn and nine home runs were career best and she was third on the team with five sacrifice hits. Defensively, Vandever caught all 57 games of the 2009 campaign. She recorded a .995 fielding percentage behind the plate, caught 15 runners stealing and picked off five.
Newcomer Jessica Shults not only brings experience behind the plate she owns a powerful swing. An EA Sports first team All-America honoree, Shults was the California Foothill League and Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year and a three-time first team all-state selection. Her impressive offensive numbers were highlighted by a .885 slugging percentage and a .448 batting average as a senior.
Returners: Amber Flores (Sr.), Dani Dobbs (Jr.) and Karolyne Long (Soph.)
Already one of the most feared hitters in the nation, Amber Flores is destined to become the Oklahoma career leader in a majority of offensive categories. The 2009 Big 12 Player of the Year is already the owner of the career walks drawn record (120), and when she gets the chance to swing, her numbers are astounding. Through three seasons, Flores has managed to produce program bests in slugging and on-base percentage and ranks second in batting average. She needs just seven home runs to tie the mark that Samantha Ricketts set a year ago and is within striking distance of even more records.
After playing the majority of 2009 at third base, Dani Dobbs made significant strides in her first season as a starter. Dobbs set a single season record for fielding percentage by a third baseman (.982) and recorded her first two career home runs. Hitting in the bottom of the lineup, Dobbs was a national leader in reaching base after being hit by a pitch. She and Flores led the way with 19 each.
After a defensive shuffle gave her an opportunity to prove her ability at shortstop, Karolyne Long made the most of it. Long followed in the footsteps of her All-American sister, Savannah, after taking over at shortstop on April 1 in the second game of a doubleheader against Baylor. Long earned All-Big 12 Championship honors after leading OU past Texas in the semifinals. She also came through with a game-winning solo home run against Northwestern on March 7.
Returners: Haley Anderson (Jr.), Krystle Huey (Jr.) and Chana'e Jones (Jr.)
Newcomers: Haley Nix (Jr.) and Brianna Turang (Fr.)
A trio of juniors anchor the outfield for Oklahoma in 2010. All three earned All-Big 12 honors in 2009 with Krystle Huey, a first team selection, and Haley Anderson and Chana’e Jones named to the second team.
Huey’s speed provides a viable option at the leadoff position of the lineup. A left-handed slapper, Huey hit a career-best .285 in 2009 and registered a perfect fielding percentage in center field. Huey also earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors in April after carrying OU past Missouri to win the Big 12 regular season title.
Jones hit .290 last season and provided her versatility on defense, playing all three outfield positions and even second base during one game in 2009. Anderson had a breakout season, hitting .310, third best on the team and stole 11 bases in 13 attempts. She saw time mostly in left field and recorded just one error in 56 games played.
Junior college transfer Haley Nix comes to OU from Texarkana College, a place where she undoubtedly learned to win. Nix earned first team All-American honors from the NFCA in 2009 after being named a second team selection in 2008.
A two-sport athlete, playing both soccer and softball at Oklahoma, freshman Brianna Turang earned all-state honors at Santiago High School in Corona, Calif. in 2009. Santiago won the California Interscholastic Federation championship in 2006.
Returners: Katie Norris (Soph.), Evan Sallis (Soph.) and Wendy Trott (Jr.)
A 2009 All-Big 12 first team selection, Katie Norris looks to provide more depth to a potent Oklahoma lineup as a sophomore. Norris hit .296 and saved her biggest contribution for the final regular season game. Norris returned to her hometown of Stillwater and carried OU past archrival Oklahoma State in a 6-0 blanking. Norris saw time in the outfield early in the season and eventually found a home at designated player.
Wendy Trott brings a big bat to the Oklahoma lineup and saw time as a designated and pinch hitter in 2009. Trott drew 12 walks in 47 games played as a sophomore and drove in 11 runs on 18 hits. Evan Sallis encountered a variety of changes during her freshman campaign. Sallis made the move to slap hitting and also saw time at both second base and in the outfield. As she adapted to becoming a true all-around player, Sallis led the team with 19 stolen bases on the year.