May 12, 1999

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- The Big 12 Conference announced today that the University of Oklahomas head softball coach Patty Gasso was named the 1999 Big 12 Coach of the Year and senior first baseman Lynette Velazquez was chosen as the 1999 Big 12 Player of the Year. Freshman Jennifer Stewart, a Yukon, Okla. product, was named 1999 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and was selected as one of two pitchers to the All-Big 12 first team. The honors were announced at a conference tournament luncheon today in Oklahoma City.

The ninth-ranked Sooners also had four other players honored for their performances in conference play. Sophomore shortstop Lisa Carey and sophomore catcher Ashli Barrett were named to the first-team All-Big 12 Conference squad. Barrett was selected to All-Big 12 first team last year while Carey was selected to the second team last season.

Freshman outfielder Christy Ring was named to the All-Big 12 second team and senior Deborah Hargrave was an at-large All-Big 12 Conference second-team selection.

This marks the second time Gasso has been named Big 12 Coach of the Year. She also earned the honor in 1996, the leagues inaugural year. Gasso is in her 10th season as a head coach and is just three wins shy of reaching 400 in her career.

"Its an honor to be recognized by your peers," Gasso said. "I also know what my coaching staff does for me. I could not have done it without them or without my players. We are all pieces of the puzzle."

Velazquez, a product of Huntington Beach, Calif., becomes the second Sooner to be named Big 12 Player of the Year. Jill Most, a left-handed pitcher, was named Co-Big 12 Player of the Year in 1996.

"I feel honored and privileged to win this special award," Velazquez said. "I worked hard not only for Big 12 Player of the Year, but also for my team and my wonderful coaching staff that has worked so hard for me."

Velazquez ranks third in the Big 12 in batting average (.408), first in RBIs (59), first in home runs (18), first in slugging percentage (.822), second in hits (62) and first in total bases (125).

She broke Casey Dicksons record for most homers in a season. Dickson hit 17 in 1996.

Stewart owns a 7-1 record with a 0.90 ERA in conference play. She is 20-3 overall with a 1.19 ERA.

Oklahoma, 38-12 overall and Big 12 regular season champion with an 11-3 league mark, begins its quest for the 1999 Big 12 Tournament crown Thursday at 10 a.m. against the winner of Wednesdays Oklahoma State/Iowa State contest.