NORMAN, Okla. - The 14th-ranked Sooners will remain in the state for the second straight week. OU will head to Tulsa, Okla., on Wednesday, March 8 to take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at 6 p.m. at the Donna J. Hardesty Sports Complex.
After Wednesday’s game, Oklahoma will return home for its OU/Worth Invitational set for March 11-12 at the OU Softball Complex. OU will open tournament action with a game against North Texas at 2:15 p.m. followed by a 4:30 p.m. meeting with Utah Valley State on Saturday. In Sunday action, the Sooners will meet Utah Valley State at 12:15 p.m. and finish the doubleheader with a 2:30 p.m. game against North Texas.
The Sooners will hit the road for their final tournament of the regular season as they head to the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., slated for March 15-19. Oklahoma will open tournament play with a 6:30 p.m. (CST) contest on Wednesday, March 15 against Utah. The next day, Oklahoma will face No. 7 Alabama at 3:30 p.m. and round out pool play with a 3:30 p.m. game against No. 25 Fresno State on Friday. The tournament portion of the Classic will begin on Saturday and last through Sunday. OU’s opponents will be determined on its record in pool play.
The Golden Hurricane enter Wednesday night’s game with an 11-5 record, including a 7-3 mark at home. Two of TU’s three home losses have come against Big 12 schools. Tulsa dropped two games this past weekend to Kansas and Nebraska in its Best Western Airport-Tulsa Festival held at the Donna J. Hardesty Sports Complex.
Senior first baseman Katie Torres is leading a Tulsa offense that is hitting .313 for the year. Torres tops the squad with a .413 batting average, including 11 RBI and team-high four home-runs. Clean up batter and designated player Sara Dyer owns the team RBI title with 12. Dyer has also recorded three doubles, two triples and one home run in 2006.
Defensively, senior Maren Genow posts a staff-best 1.74 ERA and a 6-1 mark, with her first loss of the season coming against Kansas this past weekend. As a unit, the TU staff records a 2.56 ERA and holds its opponents to a .257 hitting percentage. Other hurlers Katie Lee (1-1, 3.04 ERA) and Julie Fennell (4-3, 3.13 ERA) add relief in the circle.
Oklahoma leads the all-time series against the Golden Hurricane, 25-4. However, Tulsa has won four of the last five meetings between the schools, including both games last season.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The Sooners had a busy week as they played five games in a span of four days. Oklahoma dropped a tough 6-5 loss to Oklahoma City University, currently ranked No. 3 in NAIA, in its first game of the week despite Amber Spaulding’s 2-for-3 performance and her second home run of the year.
Next, the Sooners hosted the Norman Residence Inn Invitational March 4-5 inside the OU Softball Complex. In Saturday’s action at the Invitational, the Sooners suffered a 2-1 loss to No. 19 LSU, but responded with a 13-2 run-rule victory over Troy in five innings.
On Sunday, OU and LSU battled in extra innings, but LSU hammered a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to win, 6-5. In its second game of the Sunday doubleheader, OU played their second straight contest in extra innings. However, this time the Sooners came out on top after Norrelle Dickson’s RBI single scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth and gave Oklahoma the 2-1 victory over Troy.
After its three losses this past week, the Sooners dropped out of their top-10 ranking and fell four spots to No. 14 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, released March 7. The Sooners still sit at No. 10 in the USA Today/NFCA poll as the new one is not released until March 8. 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.
The Sooners will be playing only their second “true” road game of the season when they take on Tulsa Wednesday night. Their first road test of the year came against UNLV in the UNLV Alexis Resort Kickoff Classic in their third game of the season (Feb. 11) and resulted in a 5-3 OU victory.
OU’s opponents so far this season might feel like they’re seeing double as the Sooners have successfully turned 12 double plays in 2006, a Big 12 best. Baylor owns the second-best margin in the Big 12 with nine this season, but every other Big 12 school has five or less. In addition, Oklahoma leads all teams in the top-10 polls with 12 double plays. No. 5 Stanford and No. 8 Oregon State are closest with eight each.
The single season high for a Sooner squad is 22 set in 2004 after playing 68 games. With a 53-game regular season schedule, Oklahoma is on pace to break that mark and record 29 double plays in the regular season alone.
Though 22 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 17 of 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, Dickenson and Legendre have helped turn 11 of OU’s 12 double plays this season
- Samantha Ricketts is second on squad with 16 RBI
- Ricketts and Traci Dickenson are two of seven Sooners to hit a home run this year
- Mathis (2.25 ERA) and Hudsonpillar (2.48 ERA) lead the staff in ERA this season
- 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 24 of 28 bases this season, Oklahoma shares the Big 12’s best stolen base percentage (.857) with Texas A&M who has stolen 30 of 35 bases in 2006. Junior Norrelle Dickson leads the squad with eight stolen bases on eight attempts (seventh in the Big 12) while junior Amber Spaulding is next with a perfect 6-for-6 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. Dickson improved her clip to .529 (9-for-17) clip with runners in scoring position after pounding the game-winning single to center field against Troy. Vesely owns a .520 (13-for-25) mark and leads the team with 20 RBI while Fox owns a .450 average (9-for-20) with runners at second or third.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ’D
The Sooners are leading the Big 12 with a .983 fielding percentage with only 11 errors committed this season despite starting three freshmen in the infield. OU’s 11 errors are the second-lowest in the Big 12 despite 428 put outs. Nebraska owns the least amount of errors with eight, but has only recorded 279 put outs on the year.
VESELY’S ALL-AROUND OFFENSE
Kristin Vesely, a 2005 All-American, ranks among the best in the Big 12, offensively. The senior center fielder shares the league-best 29 hits with three others. In other offensive categories she ranks second in triples (3), fourth in runs scored (20) and fifth in RBI (20).
Additionally, she ranks eighth in the conference in total bases, averaging 1.95 per game and fifth in the league in on base percentage with a .538 average.
BIG 12 BEST - PART TWO
Fellow All-American Norrelle Dickson also sits among the elite in the Big 12 as she leads the conference in runs scored (1.09 per game) and shares with Vesely a league-best 29 hits.
In other categories, Dickson owns a .512 on base percentage (sixth in the Big 12) and sits at seventh in the conference with 8-of-8 stolen bases on the year.
Notable streaks entering the Norman Residence Inn Invitational:
206 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
146 - 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
3 - Current hitting streak for Jamie Fox
3 - Current hitting streak for Mariee Mena
3 - Consecutive seasons Gasso has started a freshman at shortstop
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.
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.
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.
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.