NORMAN, Okla. - After dropping its first loss of the season at home Thursday night, the No. 10 Oklahoma softball team will look to bounce back when it hosts the Norman Residence Inn Invitational this weekend. The tournament, slated for March 4-5, will conclude the Sooners five-game home stand at the OU Softball Complex.
OU opens tournament play with a highly anticipated contest against No. 19 LSU slated for 2:15 p.m. on Saturday followed by a 4:30 p.m. meeting with Troy. In Sunday’s action, the Sooners will take on the Tigers at 12:15 p.m. followed by a 2:30 p.m. game against Troy.
Sooners fans will have the opportunity to watch Saturday’s games live on the O-Zone. In addition, live stats will be provided on SoonerSports.com for all tournament games.
Oklahoma will remain in state, but will hit the road for a 6 p.m. contest against Tulsa at the Donna J. Hardesty Sports Complex in Tulsa, Okla., next Wednesday, March 8. Following that brief road stint, the Sooners will return home to host the OU/Worth Invitational at the OU Softball Complex slated for March 11-12. The three-team tournament will include Utah Valley State and North Texas.
SCOUTING NO. 19 LSU
The Tigers open tournament action with a 17-3 overall mark, with their only losses coming to top-10 teams including No. 4 UCLA, No. 5 Stanford and No. 9 Oregon State. LSU has posted two key wins over No. 13 Washington, whom the Sooners lost to in their season opener.
LSU owns the best offense of all three teams in the tournament as the squad is hitting .359 overall. Second baseman Vanessa Soto is leading the offensive effort with a .449 clip, including a team-leading 24 RBI, three home runs and nine doubles.
The Tiger defense completes the team as the four-member staff owns a combined 0.57 ERA. Hurlers Megan Jolly and Tiffany Garcia have a perfect 0.00 ERA while Emily Dani Hofer, the leader in appearances, posts a 0.92 ERA with a 5-2 record.
The Trojans enter the tournament on a five-game winning streak with an 11-4 record, including an upset over then-No. 5 Michigan, the reigning national champions.
Leading the offense, which is hitting a combined .236, is center fielder Stacey Dwyer, who is hitting .333 through 15 games this season with one home run. Following Dyer is second baseman Brooke Powell who owns a team-high three home runs and has recorded nine RBI on the year.
The ERA leader is junior Michelle Grinage who owns a 1.42 ERA while sophomore hurler Angela Lopez posts the best record with a 5-1 mark, including the victory over Michigan.
Oklahoma and LSU will be meeting for the eighth time in series history, with Oklahoma owning the 4-3 advantage. The last meeting between the squads was at the LSU Tiger Classic on Feb. 7, 2004, which resulted in a 6-4 OU victory over the Tigers, who were ranked No. 14 at the time. OU and Troy are meeting for the first time in program history.
OCU IN REVIEW
The Sooners ended their six-game winning streak to Oklahoma City University Thursday night as they suffered a 6-5 loss to the Stars, who are ranked No. 3 in NAIA. Oklahoma couldn’t keep up with an OCU offense that recorded 13 hits while the Sooners only posted seven. Junior Amber Spaulding led the Oklahoma offensive effort with a 2-for-3 performance and one RBI while freshman Samantha Ricketts went two-for-four with two RBI. Sophomore Stacy Braddock took the loss for the Sooners after allowing five earned runs on six hits in 1.2 innings.
PALM SPRINGS IN REVIEW
Last weekend, the Sooners played one of their toughest tournaments of the season at the Palm Springs Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., where they went 4-2 and played three top-25 teams.
Oklahoma opened the Classic with a 1-0 shutout over No. 22 after Jade Prather scored the winning run on a squeeze play at home. In Friday’s action, Oklahoma dropped a 4-2 contest to No. 23 Fresno State as the Bulldogs rallied in the seventh inning with three runs on four hits.
Rebounding from the loss, Oklahoma responded with a 6-2 victory over UC-Santa Barbara powered by a Nicole Denes grand slam. The Sooners were perfect in Saturday action as they took wins over Cal Poly, 5-2, and rallied to beat Pacific, 8-5.
The most highly anticipated match up of the Classic came in the Sunday finale when Oklahoma met up with No. 3 UCLA on ESPNU. The Sooners were impressive in the first four innings as starter Denes pitched to the minimum number of batters through 4.1 innings, but UCLA collected three hits in the final two innings to earn the victory, 2-0. Despite the loss, Oklahoma out hit the Bruins, 4-3, but was unable to capitalize as it left six runners on base.
For the third straight week, the Sooners have earned a top 10 ranking in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, released Feb. 28. Oklahoma is also at No. 10 in the latest (3/1) USA Today/NFCA poll. The Sooners have been ranked in the top 25 of every NFCA poll since its inception, which spans 145 weeks long. OU and Arizona are the only programs to be ranked in the NFCA Top-25 every week of its existence.
PLAYER TO WATCH: KRISTIN VESELY
The senior center fielder was a second team All-American in 2005 and has kept up the same pace in 2006. Vesely has not disappointed this season as she’s been named to the USA Player of the Year watch list.
Through 18 games this season, Vesely is on pace to break her 2005 school record hitting percentage of .451. She averaged 1.45 hits in 2005 en route to the Big 12 batting title. Currently, she’s hitting .509 with an average of 1.5 hits per game.
Vesely also ranks in the top five in the Big 12 in seven different offensive categories.
TWO SOONERS ON POY WATCH LIST
Oklahoma softball players Kristin Vesely and Norrelle Dickson have been named to the initial watch list for the 5th annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award, announced the Amateur Softball Association, the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States. It marks the second straight season that Dickson, a junior, has been named to the preseason watch list. Vesely was a semifinalist for the award last season, but was not on the initial 2005 preseason list.
Though 18 games this season, the Oklahoma freshmen class is making a strong impact on the Sooners this season. Currently, Traci Dickenson and Jessica Legendre are starting on the left side of the infield while Samantha Ricketts has started 14 of 15 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:
-Account for 30 percent of OU’s putouts in the field
-Samantha Ricketts is hitting .326 with 15 RBI (second-best behind senior Kristin Vesely)
-Ricketts and Traci Dickenson are two of six Sooners to hit a home run this year
-Rookie pitcher Morgan Hudsonpillar owns a staff-best 2.33 ERA
-Shortstop Jessica Legendre had clutch hits in the final inning of two come-from-behind victories at the UNLV Classic
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 time at second base. Junior All-American (third team) Norrelle Dickson will use her speed 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 time in the same position, in addition to a few appearances in left field as well as the designated player. Providing stability in center field will be 2005 second team All-American Kristin Vesely, a four-year starter in the outfield.
Swiping 22 of 24 bases this season, Oklahoma owns the best stolen base percentage (.917) of all teams in the Big 12. Junior Norrelle Dickson leads the squad with seven stolen bases on seven attempts (fourth in the Big 12) while junior Amber Spaulding is next with a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases, followed by Kristin Vesely’s 4-for-4.
The trio of Norrelle Dickson, Jamie Fox and Kristin Vesely have been extremely successful at the plate for the Sooners when Oklahoma has runners in scoring position. Vesely leads the pack with a .571 (12-for-21) with runners in scoring position as she also leads the team with 17 RBI. Dickson is hitting right at .500 (7-for14) while Fox owns a .438 average (7-for-16) with runners at second or third.
Oklahoma is second in the Big 12 in fielding percentage with only 11 errors committed this season despite starting three freshmen in the infield and recording 142 attempts (the second most in the Big 12). The Sooners own a .977 fielding percentage and are a sliver behind Nebraska’s .978 percentage. The Huskers have only committed four errors the entire 2006 season.
VESELY NAMED BIG 12 CO-PLAYER OF THE WEEK
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, a selection to the USA Player of the Year watch list, led No. 10 Oklahoma to a 5-0-1 record for the week of Feb. 13-19 as she 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. After adding two doubles and a triple on the week, the center fielder tallied a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .818 on base percentage.
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 through 17 games this season:
202 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
145 - 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
6 - Consecutive Regional Championships
4 - Current hitting streak for Amber Spaulding
3 - Consecutive seasons Gasso has started a freshman at shortstop
VESELY DRAFTED IN NPF AND PFX TOUR
Senior Oklahoma softball player Kristin Vesely has been a hot commodity for professional softball organizations lately. Vesely was the fourth overall pick and the New England Riptide’s first overall selection in the National Pro Fast pitch draft held Feb. 15.
It marked the second professional organization to draft her as she was selected as the 14th pick overall in the PFX Tour inaugural draft. The tour is a professional fast-pitch softball tour founded to help promote the sport worldwide.
VESELY AMONG BIG 12’S BEST
Kristin Vesely ranks among the best in the Big 12, offensively. Vesely owns a .551 clip, second among all Big 12 players, and leads the league in RBI (17) hits (27) triples (3) and ranks third in the conference with 15 runs scored.
Additionally, she ranks third in the conference in total bases, averaging 2.24 per game and second in the league in on base percentage with a .623 average.
BIG 12 BEST - PART TWO
Junior Norrelle Dickson also sits among the Big 12 bests in hits and stolen bases. The left fielder ranks second with 1.29 hits per game and is tied for fourth with seven stolen bases on the year.
While both Dickson and Vesely are leading the Big 12 in hitting, they are also tops among Big 12 players walked. Vesely has been walked 10 times this season (third in Big 12) while Dickson has walked eight times (sixth in the Big 12).
SOONERS ANNOUNCE RADIO AND TV SCHEDULE
The Oklahoma softball team has finalized its radio and TV schedule for the 2006 season. The Sooners will appear on ESPN five different times as well as a local Cox broadcast for the Bedlam game in Norman.
Oklahoma’s radio broadcast schedule has also been finalized, which will feature 10 OU softball games that can be heard on the official flagship station for OU softball, KOKC 1520 AM and KRXO 107.7 FM. Two additional broadcasts will be available via the internet only. For the fourth consecutive season, Brian Brinkley will handle radio play-by-play duties for the Sooners.