NORMAN, Okla. - Gaining momentum from its recent 15-1 victory over OSU, the No. 21 Oklahoma softball team will finish out its seven game road stretch as it plays four games against top-25 teams. On Saturday, the Sooners will take on No. 16 Texas A&M at 11 a.m. in College Station, Texas. OU will round out the series with a 3:30 p.m. contest against the Aggies on Sunday.
The Sooners will conclude the road stretch with a doubleheader against No. 18 Baylor on Monday night in Waco, Texas. The first pitch of the twin bill will be thrown at 5 p.m.
The Sooners will appear on ESPN (Cox Channel 29, OKC) for both games of the Texas A&M series with Tracy Warren (play-by-play) and Lisa Fernandez (color) calling the game.
Additionally, both the Texas A&M and Baylor series will be broadcast live with Brian Brinkley on the one-man show. Saturday’s game and game two of the doubleheader against Baylor can be heard live on KOKC (1520 AM).
Sunday’s contest against the Aggies and game one of the twin bill on Monday will be available on the internet via Yahoo. Live stats of all four games will be available on SoonerSports.com.
The toughest portion of the Sooners’ schedule continues as it hosts No. 1 Texas in a home series set for April 14-15 in Norman. For the second straight weekend, OU will appear on television as Friday night’s game (8 p.m.) will be on ESPNU (DirecTV Ch. 09) and Saturday’s action will be shown on ESPN at 12 p.m.
OKLAHOMA STATE IN REVIEW
The Sooners got back in the win column Wednesday night as they recorded their seventh straight victory over in-state rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. Oklahoma used a 15-1 five-inning run rule to claim game one of the Bedlam series.
The offense was dominant, recording 15 hits on 15 runs, its second highest run total of the season while 11 different Sooners tallied a hit in the contest. Sophomore catcher Susan Ogden highlighted the night with her first career homer as she finished with a 2-for-3 performance and three RBI.
Lefty freshman hurler D.J. Mathis was equally impressive as she picked up her ninth win of the season after tying her career high with seven strikeouts and only allowing one run on four hits in four innings of work.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M
The 16th-ranked Aggies also bring a lot of momentum into the contest as they enter the weekend series fresh off an upset of No. 1 Texas Wednesday night in Austin, Texas. Currently Texas A&M, the preseason favorite to win the Big 12, is tied with Texas at the top of the Big 12 standings as each own a 5-1 mark in conference play. The lone conference loss for TAMU was against Texas Tech, whom the Sooners split with earlier this season.
Texas A&M provides dual threats in its lineup as sophomore hurlers Megan Gibson and Amanda Scarborough are key components in the circle as well as at the plate. Gibson (13-3, 2.30 ERA) and Scarborough (11-5, 2.33) have seen equal time in the circle and each have notched wins against No. 1 teams as Gibson defeated then-No. 1 Arizona and Scarborough earned her 11th win of the season after giving up only two hits to No. 1 Texas. They each have similar numbers but Scarborough leads with 5.6 strikeouts in 18 appearances and four shutouts.
Gibson is providing the power at the plate with a .319 average and a team-best nine home runs and 25 RBI while Scarborough leads the squad with seven doubles and posts a .277 average. Providing speed is Sharonda McDonald (.252 avg) as she owns a .314 on base percentage and is 17-for-18 in stolen bases this season.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The Sooners and Aggies have already met once this season as the two squads squared off in the quarterfinals of the Judi Garman Classic (March 18), resulting in a 7-6 win for Texas A&M.
OU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning after a Mariee Mena two RBI double, but the Aggies responded with a six-run, four-hit inning in the bottom of the fourth, highlighted by a Scarborough home run to push TAMU’s lead to 7-2. OU rallied back, putting four runs in the board in the top of the fifth, but couldn’t close the gap as Texas A&M rolled to victory and Megan Gibson collected the win.
TEXAS A&M SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma leads the all-time series between the schools, 32-23. Since the start of Big 12 play, OU has been dominant against the Aggies as OU is 22-7 since 1996. In the last road trip to Texas A&M (2004), the Sooners were swept after two close one-run games. The Sooners last win in College Station came in 2002 as they swept the Aggies when they were ranked No. 22 in the country.
No. 18 Baylor (24-14, 4-2 Big 12) currently owns a four-game winning streak and will test that this weekend as it hosts Kansas before playing the Sooners in Monday’s doubleheader. Baylor’s two conference losses have come at the hands of Texas A&M (4-3) and Texas (2-1).
Offensively, the Bears are right behind the Sooners in offense in the Big 12 as they own a team clip of .317 (second in the Big 12) and are led by freshman third baseman Brette Reagan, who owns a .400 clip with nine home runs and 33 RBI. Adding power is clean up batter Chelsi Lake, who leads the team with 12 home runs and 39 RBI. Additionally, Baylor is one of the quicker teams in the Big 12 as they have stolen 62 bases (second in the league) and have three different players with more than 10 stolen bases.
Right-hander Lisa Ferguson is the ace of the defense as she owns a 13-8 record and a 1.39 ERA in 25 appearances in the circle. Oklahoma will likely see Ferguson in both games of the doubleheader as the junior has started every Big 12 game this season. The Bears have five other pitchers who have also seen time in the circle, but very sparingly as none have more than 12 appearances on the year.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. BAYLOR
Oklahoma owns a 30-6 advantage over Baylor in the all-time series, but three of those losses have come in the last two years. Baylor won the latest meaning between the Sooners, a 6-5 contest in Norman last year. The other two OU losses in the Big 12 era came in 2004, the Sooners last road trip to Waco.
Oklahoma is in the midst of its toughest stretch of the season as its next six games are against top-25 teams with four of them on the road. However, the Sooners are looking to continue their momentum as they had one of their best offensive outings of the season Wednesday with a 15-1 route of in-state rival Oklahoma State.
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 .322 clip and 226 RBI through 39 games. The catalysts for the Sooner offense have been 2005 All-Americans Kristin Vesely (.492, 37 RBI) and Norrelle Dickson (.477, 16 stolen bases). Between the two of them, they rank in the top 5 of nine different Big 12 offensive categories, including the top mark on four of those lists (conference rankings listed on pages 13-18).
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 allowing only one run and four hits while fanning seven batters in four innings against Oklahoma State. The freshman lefty is the leader of the five-member staff as she owns a 9-3 record with a 2.36 ERA. Also making strong contributions is fellow freshman Morgan Hudsonpillar who owns a 4-4 record and a 2.90 ERA in 20 appearances.
Oklahoma appears in the USA Today/NFCA poll for the 149th straight week as the Sooners are No. 21 in the poll released April 5, 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.
The Sooners are also No. 21 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll that was released April 4, 2006
BIG 12 HISTORY
OU has an all-time record of 142-44 (.763) in Big 12 games .... Oklahoma’s 142 wins and .763 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).
PLAYER TO WATCH: SAMANTHA RICKETTS
Despite being a rookie, this designated player has been an offensive giant for the Sooners as she is hitting at a .340 clip, including a .318 mark in Big 12 play. Ricketts brings power to the plate as the cleanup hitter in OU’s lineup.
She owns six home runs on the year and has tallied 33 RBI on the season (second on the team). Ricketts is coming off an impressive performance at Oklahoma State where she went 2-for-3 with three RBI, including her eighth double of the season.
IT TAKES SEVEN TO WIN
The lucky number for OU this year has been seven as the Sooners are 16-0-1 when scoring seven or more runs in a game. Conversely, Oklahoma is 9-13 when not scoring seven plus runs. Additionally, the Sooners are 20-3 when scoring first.
SOONERS AGAINST TOP-25
Oklahoma has faced a tough schedule so far this year and it will only get tougher as six of OU’s remaining games are against top-25 teams. The Sooners have played 11 of their 39 games against top-25 competition, winning two of them.
Against top competition, senior Kristin Vesely has been the leader with a .333 clip, including two home runs and 21 total bases with a .636 slugging percentage. In the circle, D.J. Mathis has posted a 1-1 record with a staff-best 2.91 ERA in eight appearances.
DOUBLE TIMES FIVE
In its offensive route against Oklahoma State, the Sooners recorded five doubles in the game. It marked the most by the Sooners this season. However, it did not set a record as Oklahoma has hit six doubles in a single game on three different occasions.
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 games against Texas A&M/Baylor:
222 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
149 - 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 - Savannah Long’s longest hitting streak of her career that was snapped against Nebraska last week
7 - Consecutive wins for OU in the Bedlam Series
6 - Consecutive Regional Championships
5 - Current hitting streak by Amber Spaulding
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 .492 clip while Dickson follows in second with a .477 overall season batting average.
Dickson leads the league with 61 hits each on the season, a 1.56 per game average.
Additionally, Dickson and Vesely are the top two in the conference in runs scored. Dickson leads with 45 scored on the year while Vesely is second with 36 on the season.
Vesely (.559) and Dickson (.547) are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in on base percentage for the conference.
Vesely ranks third in the conference with 37 RBI while freshman Samantha Ricketts holds the fifth spot with 33 RBI on the year.
The Sooners lead the Big 12 in doubles thanks to Vesely and sophomore Savannah Long. Vesely leads the conference with 12 two-baggers on the year while Long is right behind Vesely with 10 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 .322 clip. The Sooners are also tops in on base percentage (.401), slugging percentage (.495), runs (245), hits (342), doubles (66), RBI (226) and base on balls (115).
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 39 games this season. Senior Kristin Vesely has started 36 games in center field and three at catcher while junior Norrelle Dickson has 32 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 started three of the last five 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 .477 clip (second in Big 12) while averaging 1.56 hits a game and has already surpassed last season’s RBI mark with 18 through 39 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 17 double plays in 2006, a Big 12 best. Baylor owns the second-best margin in the Big 12 with 12 this season. In addition, Oklahoma leads all teams in the top-10 polls with 17 double plays.
The single season high for a Sooner squad is 22 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 13 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 39 games this season. Currently, Traci Dickenson and Jessica Legendre are starting on the left side of the infield while Samantha Ricketts has started 34 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 second on squad with 33 RBI and third on team with a .340 batting average and six home runs
-Dickenson has homered five times on the season and is hitting .389 in Big 12 play with five RBI (fifth in Big 12)
-Mathis (2.36 ERA) and Hudsonpillar (2.90 ERA) lead the staff in ERA this season
-Shortstop Jessica Legendre has helped turn seven of OU’s 17 double plays this year and tied a career high with two RBI vs OSU
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 37 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 .305 (106-for-347) and have driven in 41 percent (92-of-226) of their RBI with two outs. No player has shown this skill more than Kristin Vesely who has pounded 20 of her team-leading 37 RBI with two outs.
The Sooners have taken advantage of runners in scoring position as Oklahoma is hitting at a .574 clip with a runner at third and less than two outs. In addition, the threesome of Kristin Vesely (.600), Samantha Ricketts (.727) and Norrelle Dickson (.778) have been extremely successful with a runner on third and less than two outs.
EXTRA BASE HITS
The Sooners lead the Big 12 in extra base hits this season and have posted an extra-base hit in 34 of 39 games this season, including 28 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 18 extra base hits on the year (12 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR) while Savannah Long (10 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR), Samantha Ricketts (8 2B, 4 HR) and Amber Spaulding (6 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR) follow with 14 each on the season.
WORTH NOTING ...
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 ... The Nebraska series snapped Savannah Long and Samantha Ricketts’ seven-game hitting streaks, a career high for each ... OU’s nine triples this season equals its final season total in 2005 ... Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in nine different offensive categories ... Through 39 games, the Sooners are six double plays shy of breaking the single season record (22) ... By starting against Washington (2/10), freshman Jessica Legendre became the third consecutive freshman to start the season at shortstop for head coach Patty Gasso ... In 2005, Savannah Long started before moving to second base ... In 2004, Norrelle Dickson started before moving to third base and to left field in 2006 ... Junior Amber Spaulding hit four home runs in four consecutive games (3/11-12) ... Junior Norrelle Dickson recorded the team’s longest hitting streak (eight games) of the season ... During that streak (3/5-3/15), Dickson batted .724 (21-of-29) with five extra-base hits (2 2B, 3 3B).
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.
The 2006 Pre-Season Watch List is comprised of 50 players representing 28 schools and 10 different NCAA Division I Conferences. USA Softball will announce its 25 finalists during the second week of April. A player does not have to appear on the initial watch list to be considered as a Top 25 finalist, but once the Top 25 is named the remaining finalists must be selected from that list.
Just days before the start of post-season play, a list of 10 finalists will be named and released on May 10. The three finalists will be announced May 31. The winner of the 2006 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be announced during the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
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.
JENNIFER STEWART ON NCAA 25TH ANNIVERSARY BALLOT
Two-time All-American pitcher Jennifer Stewart (1999-2002), who guided the 2000 softball team to the squad’s first NCAA Championship, has been selected to the NCAA’s 25th Anniversary Team ballot.
With 36 athletes and five coaches selected to the ballot, fans will have the opportunity to vote online at www.ncaasports.com until April 1 for their 10-player and one coach 25th anniversary softball team.
The left-handed hurler was named the 2000 Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player after guiding Oklahoma to its first women’s national title with a 3-1 defeat of softball powerhouse UCLA. In addition to her two All-America accolades, Stewart was a three-time All-Midwest Region selection and a four-time All-Big 12 honoree.
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.