NORMAN, Okla. - The No. 10 Oklahoma softball team (4-1), fresh off a four-game winning streak in the UNLV Alexis Resort Kickoff Classic, will host Central Arkansas in its home opener this Wednesday, February 15 in a doubleheader scheduled for 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the OU Softball Complex. As a special promotion to Sooner fans, it will also be $0.50 hot dog and coke night.
Wednesday night’s match up will be the first meeting between both schools. Live stats for both games can be viewed on SoonerSports.com. In addition, a live broadcast of the doubleheader will be available for O-Zone viewers on SoonerSports.com.
WEEKEND IN REVIEW
The Sooners opened the 2006 season at the UNLV Alexis Resort Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., this past weekend (Feb. 10-12). In its season opener, Oklahoma faced No. 13 Washington in the program’s first ever top-25 season opening match up under head coach Patty Gasso. Washington was too much for OU as the Huskies run-ruled the Sooners, 12-4 in five innings, and broke Oklahoma’s streak of 14-straight season opening wins.
OU bounced back and beat Kentucky, 4-3, in a come-from-behind victory Friday night after sophomore Savannah Long pounded a game-winning RBI double that scored Norrelle Dickson to give the Sooners their first win of the year.
In Saturday’s action, Oklahoma handed host school UNLV its first loss of the season with a 5-3 win over the Rebels. The Sooners followed that game with a 9-0 run-rule over Southern Utah. Sophomore pitcher Stacy Braddock earned her first win of the season with the shutout while junior Stacia Aleman highlighted the Sooner offense with her grand slam.
Rounding out tournament action, Oklahoma pushed its winning streak to four with its second come-from-behind victory of the tournament. Junior Amber Spaulding led OU to a 2-1 victory over Long Beach State after hammering a walk-off two RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh to give Oklahoma its first lead of the game and send the Sooners home with a win.
SCOUTING CENTRAL ARKANSAS
Central Arkansas opened its softball season this week and will play its fifth and sixth consecutive games in three days against the Sooners. The Bears, led by first-year head coach Steve Kissel, are currently 2-0 and will face Northeastern State in a doubleheader on Tuesday night before playing the Sooners in Norman on Wednesday. Last season, UCA finished with a 19-28 overall mark, including an 11-17 record in league play.
Through only two games of action, the Bears are being led by sophomore Jessica Maland and junior transfer Amy Sperle. Maland owns a .667 clip after going 4-for-6 with four RBI and one home run in the doubleheader against Williams Baptist Monday. Sperle, a favorite for the conference’s Newcomer of the Year, owns a .571 batting average and has successfully swiped two bases on two attempts.
Also look for senior first baseman Marquita Smith and junior second baseman Maegan Bell, both of whom were picked to the conference’s preseason team.
Freshman Amanda Burgess is the team’s leading pitcher after allowing zero runs, only two hits and striking out four batters in seven innings of work Monday night.
Besides leading the Sooners with a .500 hitting percentage, senior Kristin Vesely and junior Amber Spaulding have been impressive in big situations for the Sooners. During tournament action this past weekend, Spaulding was a clutch performer for the Sooners as she went 4-for-4 with two outs and went 5-for-5 with runners on base. The highlight of the weekend was Spaulding’s walk off two RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Sooners a 2-1 win over Long Beach State.
Vesely was equally impressive at the plate where she went 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-3 with a two-out count. The 2005 All-American’s triple sparked a four-run rally in Oklahoma’s lone loss of the tournament and was clutch in a 5-3 defeat of tournament host UNLV where she pounded a triple with two outs and hammered a bases loaded single to finish the game 4-for-4 with 3 RBI.
HOME RUN LEADER
Junior Stacia Aleman currently leads the Sooners in home runs this season after pounding two in the UNLV tournament this past weekend. In one weekend of tournament action, the Oklahoma native has already surpassed her career home run total (previously one). In addition, of the three home runs Aleman has hit in her career, two of them have been grand slams. Her grand slam against Southern Utah gave the Sooners the decisive lead and the run-rule 9-0 win.
SOONERS BREAK INTO TOP 10
The Oklahoma softball team bounced back into the top 10 (ESPN.com/USA Softball poll) this week after a solid 4-1 performance at the UNLV Alexis Resort Kick Off Classic this past weekend. Previously ranked No. 13 in the ESPN.com preseason poll, the Sooners replaced the Big 12’s Baylor for the lone shift among the top 10 this week.
In the USA Today/NFCA Preseason Poll, Oklahoma debuted at No. 12, but the most up to date poll is not released until Wednesday, Feb. 15 which made it unavailable at press time. The Sooners have been ranked in the top 25 of every NFCA poll since its inception, which spans 143 weeks long. OU and Arizona are the only programs to be ranked in the NFCA Top-25 every week of its existence.
Oklahoma will remain at home for its own tournament, the OU/Nike Classic, slated for Feb. 17-19 at the OU Softball Complex. The Sooners will open tournament action Friday with North Dakota State at 2:30 p.m. followed by a 4:45 p.m. meeting with Indiana. On Saturday, OU will face Nevada at 2:30 p.m. and North Dakota State at 4:45 p.m. Rounding out tournament action on Sunday, Oklahoma will face Nevada at 12:15 p.m. and followed by Indiana at 2:30 p.m.
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 on April 5. 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.
Though only five games into the 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 pitchers Morgan Hudsonpillar and D.J. Mathis have seen time in the circle. In addition, catcher Samantha Ricketts and utility player Jeannie Douglas have already seen time in the lineup.
The following are a few notes on the freshmen class:
- Totaling 33 percent of OU’s runs this season
- Totaling 40 percent of OU’s doubles in 2006
- Rookie pitching duo has combined for 45 percent of Oklahoma’s strikeouts and 58 percent of innings pitched
- Freshman hurler Morgan Hudsonpillar has pitched two complete games and leads the bullpen in wins (2-0)
- Shortstop Jessica Legendre had clutch hits in the final inning of two come-from-behind victories
WHAT IS GONE
While head coach Patty Gasso, the winningest coach in Big 12 history, returns four starters from last year’s Oklahoma squad that finished second in the regular season, she also has the tough task of replacing a stellar senior class. The four-player senior class combined for 11 All-Big 12, seven All-Midwest Region and four All-America honors during their careers.
The following are the statistical numbers and percentages that will have to be filled by the graduation of the senior class:
Oklahoma returns 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 will be making the switch to the right side of the infield this season where she will likely see time at second base and first 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. Providing stability in the outfield will be 2005 second team All-American Kristin Vesely and junior right fielder Jamie Fox. Vesely is a four-year starter in the outfield while Fox started all 67 games in right field last season while only committing one error. Bringing veteran leadership to the circle will be senior hurler Nicole Denes, who worked as OU’s third option last season.
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 the 2006 season opener:
189 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
143 - Consecutive weeks OU has been ranked in the top-25.
11 - Consecutive home openers won under Gasso.
12 - Consecutive seasons of 40 or more wins, 11 under Gasso.
12 - Consecutive trips to the NCAA postseason
6 - Consecutive wins for OU in the Bedlam Series
6 - Consecutive Regional Championships
3 - Consecutive seasons Gasso has started a freshman at shortstop
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.