NORMAN, Okla. - The No. 21 Oklahoma softball team is nearing the end of Big 12 play and has a crucial five-game stretch before ending conference action. The Sooners begin the stretch with its final Big 12 road trip, a two-game series against Iowa State this weekend in Ames, Iowa. OU and ISU will meet at 2 p.m. on Saturday and round out the series with an 11 a.m. contest on Sunday.
The Sooners return to the OU Softball Complex Wednesday night as they host Bedlam Rival, Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. OU will continue the home stand with a two game series against Kansas April 29-30 to finalize regular season conference play.
The final stretch of OU’s regular season will end with a doubleheader against Arkansas on May 1 in Fayetteville, Ark., followed by senior night at the OU Softball Complex on May 3 against North Texas.
The Bedlam series next Wednesday will be broadcast within the state of Oklahoma by Cox (channel 7 in OKC/Metro area) with Brian Brinkley on play-by-play and Kenny Mossman on color. The game will also be carried on two radio stations. The OU radio broadcast will be aired on KOKC (1520 AM) with Tony Sellars on the one-man show. The OSU broadcast with Bill VanNess can be found on KGFY (105.5 FM).
SCOUTING IOWA STATE
The Cyclones (19-20) are on a roll entering the series against Oklahoma as they have upset No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 16 Nebraska in the last week, including a dominating 14-6 performance over Texas A&M. Sitting in eighth place in the conference standings with a 3-6 Big 12 record, ISU tabbed its lone other Big 12 win against Oklahoma State.
In the circle, the Cyclones rank fifth in the Big 12 with a 2.34 combined ERA. Right-handed hurlers Alyssa Ransom and Amie Ford are the go-to pitchers on the staff. Ransom has been responsible for ISU’s two wins over ranked teams this year as she owns a staff-best 2.32 ERA with a 9-11 record. However, Ford has pitched more innings this season (129.0) and leads the team in strikeouts per inning.
Offensively, Iowa State is hitting a .245 clip as a team with two girls above .300. Junior catcher Ashley Killeen is hitting .336 on the season and leads the Cyclones in home runs (7), RBI (33) and total bases (65). Killeen was instrumental in ISU’s win over Texas A&M as she recorded four RBI in the contest, including a three-run homer.
Adding additional offensive power is junior left fielder Katie Reichling, who posts a .318 average with 20 RBI and a .409 on base percentage.
IOWA STATE SERIES HISTORY
The Sooners own a 49-24 advantage in the all-time series against Iowa State, including an 18-3 mark since the start of Big 12 play. OU’s last trip to Ames was in 2004 where the Sooners and Cyclones split the series.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The two programs last met in Norman in the opening weekend of Big 12 play in 2005. The Sooners swept the series with a 7-3 win and a 2-0 victory.. In the final game, current Sooner Jadyn Smith recorded the shut out after holding the Cyclones to only three hits in five innings of work. Offensively, Norrelle Dickson and Kristin Vesely added a hit a piece in the victory. Current Cyclone Katie Reichling allowed five hits and two earned runs in the contest.
In the first game of the series last season, ISU’s Alyssa Ransom took the loss after giving up five earned runs on 12 hits in four complete innings of work. Jamie Fox came up huge in the contest, posting a 3-for-4 outing at the plate while also recording four RBI.
TULSA IN REVIEW
Stepping out of conference play, OU blanked Tulsa for the second time this year with a 3-0 victory over the Golden Hurricane Wednesday night at the OU Softball Complex. Senior hurler Nicole Denes pitched her second shut out of the year in the complete game.
Denes held the TU hitters to five hits and zero runs while striking out three Golden Hurricane batters. It marked Denes’ fourth complete game of the season as she improved to 7-5 on the year.
Offensively, the Sooners, totaled the same amount of hits as Tulsa. Amber Spaulding led the team at the plate with a 2-for-3 performance, including a double that marked the only extra-base hit in the contest. Junior Mariee Mena and sophomore Savannah Long each added an RBI single while junior Norrelle Dickson recorded OU’s only other hit.
The Sooners own a 6-4 record on the road this season after starting out the season with a perfect 3-0 mark before dropping its first Big 12 road series of the year to Nebraska. Since then, Oklahoma has played five league road contests, winning three of them. OU’s most recent road trips were at No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 19 Baylor, where the Sooners split the series with both schools.
VESELY SELECTED AS FINALIST FOR USA SOFTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
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.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR PROFILE - KRISTIN VESELY
Senior Kristin Vesely, an All-America candidate and USA Softball Player of the Year Finalist, is on the same torrid pace she was last season where she earned second team All-America honors. She currently ranks in the top 10 of 11 different OU career lists and has already set career single season records in home runs (4) and RBI (39).
Vesely leads the Big 12 in batting average and on base percentage while ranking second in hits, runs scored and doubles. She is ranked in the top-five of every Big 12 offensive category except for home runs, which she has set a single season career high with four on the season.
Additionally, she ranks among the top offensive hitters in the nation with a .458 clip, which ranks eighth in the country.
The center fielder is stellar on defense with a 57-game errorless streak dating back to May 1, 2005. The speedy outfielder is the only Sooner starter to not commit an error this season.
The Sooners fell to No. 21 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll released April 18 and Oklahoma appears in the USA Today/NFCA poll for the 151st 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 144-48 (.750) in Big 12 games .... Oklahoma’s 144 wins and .750 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).
In non-conference action this season, the Sooners have put together a 24-7-1 mark, including an 11-3 mark at home. OU has won 10 of its last 11 non-conference games and has won the last six straight at home.
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 April 16
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 11-17 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 23-3 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 17 of their 46 games against top-25 competition, winning four of them.
Against top competition, senior Kristin Vesely has been the leader with a .321 clip, including three home runs and 30 total bases with a .566 slugging percentage.
Notable streaks entering the game against Tulsa:
229 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
151 - Consecutive weeks since the inception of the NFCA Poll that OU has been ranked in the top-25.
57 - Consecutive games Kristin Vesely has not committed an error, dating back to May 1, 2005
14 - Consecutive games Norrelle Dickson has not committed an error
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 .458 clip while Dickson follows in second with a .447 overall season batting average.
Dickson leads the league with 67 hits on the season, a 1.46 per game average.
Additionally, Dickson and Vesely are the top two in the conference in runs scored. Dickson leads with 49 scored on the year while Vesely is second with 40 on the season.
Vesely (.527) and Dickson (.520) 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 39 RBI each
The Sooners lead the Big 12 in doubles thanks to Vesely and sophomore Savannah Long. Vesely is second in the league 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 .309 clip. The Sooners are also tops in on base percentage (.386), runs (267), hits (385), doubles (69), RBI (244) and base on balls (126).
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 46 games this season. Senior Kristin Vesely has started 43 games in center field and three at catcher while junior Norrelle Dickson has 39 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 have appeared 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 eight 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 (19 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 .447 clip (second in Big 12) while averaging a Big 12-best 1.46 hits per game and has already surpassed last season’s RBI mark with 18 through 46 games in 2006. Below is a look at how Dickson stacks up against other top leadoff batters in the conference:
OU’s opponents might feel like they’re seeing double as the Sooners have successfully turned 20 double plays in 2006, a Big 12 best. Oklahoma State owns the second-best margin in the Big 12 with 15 this season. Only four other schools in the NCAA have more double plays. They are Campbell (23), Georgia Tech (23), Jacksonville (23) and Furman (22).
CLOSING IN ON DOUBLE PLAY HISTORY
The single season high for a Sooner squad is 22 double plays set in 2004 after playing 68 games. With a 54-game regular season schedule, Oklahoma is on pace to break that mark in the regular season alone. Second baseman Savannah Long is the leading contributor with 15 double plays turned on the season.
Heading into the season, head coach Patty Gasso knew that the freshmen class would be a strong factor in the Sooners’ success. The rookies have done their job as they are having a tremendous impact on the Sooners through 46 games this season. Currently, Traci Dickenson and Jessica Legendre are starting on the left side of the infield while Samantha Ricketts has started 40 games this season at either catcher or the designated player position. Pitchers Morgan Hudsonpillar and D.J. Mathis have seen plenty of time in the circle while utility player Jeannie Douglas has also seen time in the lineup.
The following are a few notes on the freshmen class:
Ricketts is third in the Big 12 with 39 RBI and currently owns a .352 batting average in Big 12 play
Dickenson has homered five times on the season
Mathis (2.65 ERA) and Hudsonpillar (3.34 ERA) lead the staff in ERA this season
Shortstop Jessica Legendre has helped turn seven of OU’s 20 double plays this year
LUCKY NO. 3
In 2005, Norrelle Dickson (No. 1) and Kristin Vesely (No. 2) were one of the best 1-2 leadoff duos in the country as both earned All-America honors for their efforts. This year, Vesely has made the switch to the No. 3 spot in the lineup and the Sooners have benefited from her success there. Vesely has already surpassed her 2005 RBI total (30) and ranks third in the conference with 39 RBI on the season.
TWO OUT RALLY
Oklahoma is using a two-out rally to score most of its runs this season as the Sooners are batting .294(120-of-408) and have driven in 40 percent (98-of-243) of their RBI with two outs. No player has shown this skill more than Kristin Vesely who has pounded 21 of her team-leading 39 RBI with two outs.
The Sooners have taken advantage of runners in scoring position as Oklahoma is hitting at a .583 clip with a runner at third and less than two outs. In addition, the threesome of Kristin Vesely (.600), Samantha Ricketts (.750) and Norrelle Dickson (.778) have been extremely successful with a runner on third and less than two outs.
EXTRA BASE HITS
The Sooners are second in the Big 12 in extra base hits with 114 on the season. OU has posted an extra-base hit in 37 of 46 games this season, including 30 games with two or more extra-base hits. The Sooners’ season high for extra-base hits this season is seven (4 HR, 3 2B) set against Indiana on Feb. 17 and Utah Valley State on March 11 (4 2B, 3 HR). Kristin Vesely leads the Sooners with 19 extra base hits on the year (12 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR) while Samantha Ricketts (9 2B, 7 HR) follows with 16 on the season.
WORTH NOTING ...
Kristin Vesely owns a 57-game errorless streak dating back to May 1, 2005 ... OU’s win over Texas A&M (4/8) snapped the Aggies’ 20-game streak of home conference wins that dated back to April 22, 2003 ... The Sooners’ 15 hits in the win over Texas A&M marked the most hits the Aggies have given up the entire season ... Kristin Vesely currently ranks in the top 10 on 11 different OU career charts (see page 7 ) ... Vesely needs one more double to move into third on the career doubles list ... Vesely only needs one more triple to move into No. 6 on the career triples list ... OU’s nine triples this season equals its final season total in 2005 ... Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in eight different offensive categories ... Through 46 games, the Sooners are three double plays sh