June 1, 1999
The University of Oklahoma softball team finished its season with a 40-16 overall record and a No. 23 ranking in the final USA Today/NFCA Coaches Top 25 Poll.
OU fell just short of its goal in 1999 - the Womens College World Series. But the season was a success story for the Sooner squad. Several highlights included winning the Big 12 regular season championship, reaching the NCAA playoffs for the fifth straight year and Lynette Velazquez becoming the first OU softball player in school history to be named a first-team All-American.
The year ended for the Sooners at the NCAA Regional in Baton Rouge, La. The Sooners were awarded the No. 2 seed in the six-team field. The host school, Louisiana State, was the No. 1 seed. The winner of this regional would advance to the Womens College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Sooners opened the double-elimination tournament on Thursday, March 20, with a 3-1 victory over No. 5 seed Long Beach State.
OU was struggling offensively for the majority of the game and trailed 1-0 after five-and-a-half innings. But the Sooners exploded for three runs in the bottom of the fifth. With the bases loaded, one out and a 0-2 count on Lisa Carey, the Sooner shortstop smashed a double to the right center field fence scoring all three runners. Carey was 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs.
OU ace Jennifer Stewart earned the win with a complete game effort. The freshman allowed one run on six hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
The Sooners lost their next game, 5-0, against Southern Mississippi on Friday, May 21. The Golden Eagles took command of the game in the first inning, scoring five runs off of OU starting pitcher Sophia Contreraz. The senior allowed five earned runs on four hits and one walk. She ended the season with an 8-2 record.
Meanwhile, USMs Courtney Blades, who broke the NCAA single-season strikeout record this year, kept the Sooner offense off-balance the entire game. She threw a one-hitter, walked three and struck out 10 batters. The lone OU hit was by Christy Ring in the sixth.
With the defeat, the Sooners fell into the losers bracket and faced host school and No. 1 seed LSU on Saturday, May 22.
OU jumped to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Senior Stephanie Clark started the rally with a double to right center field. One out later, Mandy Fulton drove in Clark with a single. But the Tigers offense exploded for seven runs in the next three innings for a 7-3 victory, eliminating the Sooners from the regional playoffs.
Stewart suffered the loss, allowing five runs in five innings on seven hits and two walks. She finished the season with a 22-6 overall record. Junior Lana Moran, who relieved Stewart, allowed two runs on four hits, including a home run, in the last two innings.
Freshman Ace . . .
Freshman Jennifer Stewart went beyond the high expectations placed on her at the beginning of the season. She solidified herself this year as the ace of the pitching staff.
Stewart finished 22-6 on the season with a 1.28 ERA. In her college debut Feb. 9, the Yukon, Okla., product threw a no-hitter in OUs 7-0 victory. She added a perfect game to her accomplishments April 6 in the Sooners 7-0 win over Wichita State.
In 196.2 innings, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year allowed 45 runs (36 earned) and struck out 132 batters. Opponents hit .200 off of the left-handed power pitcher.
Stewart, who was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and to the all-league first team, was 7-1 in the Big 12 with a sparkling 0.90 ERA. She suffered two losses in the Big 12 Tournament despite allowing only two earned runs with a 0.70 ERA.
Defensive Minded . . .
Much of OUs success in the past and in 1999 under head coach Patty Gasso has been because of its defensive performance. OU finished this season ranked first in the nation in fielding percentage (.979). The Sooners broke school records in two defensive categories this year: fewest errors in a season (36) and fielding percentage (.979). The previous records for these categories were set by last years squad. The 1998 team committed 52 errors for a .974 fielding percentage, which ranked fourth in the nation.
In a Hitting Zone . . .
To say Lynette Velazquez was in the zone this season would be an understatement. The senior from Huntington Beach, Calif., did it all. For her outstanding efforts, she was named 1999 Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. Velazquez is the first Sooner player in OU softball history to be selected to the first team.
Velazquez finished in the top five in nine of the major hitting categories in the Big 12. She led the league in home runs (20), RBIs (61), slugging percentage (.808) and total bases (135). Her .389 batting average ranked second and her 65 hits ranked fourth in the conference. Velazquez finished fourth in runs scored (41), third in on-base percentage (.472) and fourth in walks (26). In Big 12 play, Velazquezs numbers were astonishing. In 14 games, she hit .429, slammed seven home runs, drove in 21 runs, and finished with a .976 slugging percentage and a .520 on-base percentage.
On defense, Velazquez demonstrated why she was one of the best fielding first basemen in the nation. This season, Velazquez committed only two errors in 424 chances for a .995 fielding percentage. Velazquez was named Big 12 Player of the Week three times this season, including the seasons last honor which she earned by hitting two home runs in OUs 6-2 victory over Oklahoma State on April 30. The two homers helped secure the Big 12 Conference regular season championship for OU.
One More for 400 . . .
Head coach Patty Gasso nearly reached a milestone this season, but should reach it within the first few games of next year. With one more win, she will post a total of 400 in her career as a head coach.
In her 10 years, she is 399-152-1 overall (.724). In her five seasons at OU, Gasso has compiled a 237-93 record (.718). She needs 13 more wins for a total of 250 at OU.
Tournament History . . .
This year, the Sooners made their sixth consecutive and overall NCAA Tournament appearance (five of those have come under head coach Patty Gasso). OU is 11-12 in the event and was one game shy of the WCWS in 1998, losing to Massachusetts, 3-1, in the regional final at Amherst, Mass. The Sooners, who have never reached the WCWS, have made it to the regional final four of the six times. OU failed to make it to the final in 1997 and this year.
Opposing runners should be aware of catcher Ashli Barrett behind the plate, where she continues to showcase her cannon-like arm.
This season, the sophomore threw out 27-of-44 would-be stealers (61 percent). In 13 steal attempts against Barrett in conference play, she threw out six runners.
The Oklahoma City, Okla., product is also one of the best defensive catchers in the Big 12 and maybe the nation. Barrett committed only one error in 298 chances and allowed only four passed balls.
While Barretts defensive abilities are impressive, her offensive skills this season were also excellent. She was one of the most consistent hitters on the team. She batted .339 (.370 in the Big 12) and did not allow her average to dip lower than .314 all year.
Barrett showed some power with her seven home runs, including a game-winning three-run homer in OUs 3-0 win over Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, on April 17. Her 33 RBIs ranked third on the squad.
The Sooners on the other hand ran well this season. OU had two players with 10 or more stolen bases (Washington-17, Ring-12) and three others with five or more stolen bases. As a team, the Sooners were successful 58 times in 79 tries, for a success rate of 73 percent.
Big 12 Honors . . .
The OU softball team dominated the 1999 Big 12 Conference season awards. Patty Gasso, Big 12 Coach of the Year, became the first coach in the Big 12 to win the honor twice. She also earned it in 1996, the conferences inaugural year.
Senior first baseman Lynette Velazquez was named the 1999 Big 12 Player of the Year. Sophomore shortstop Lisa Carey, sophomore catcher Ashli Barrett and freshman pitcher Jennifer Stewart were named to the All-Big 12 first team. Stewart was also named Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Freshman outfielder Christy Ring was named to the All-Big 12 second team, as was senior right fielder Deborah Hargrave.
All-Region Honors . . .
Once again, the Sooner softball squad was well represented on the All-Midwest Region team. This year, OU had five players named to the team, more than any other school in the Midwest region.
Selected to the first-team were Lynette Velazquez, Lisa Carey and Jennifer Stewart. Named to the second team were Christy Ring and Ashli Barrett.
All-America Honors . . .
Lynette Velazquez was named a first-team NFCA All-American and sophomore shortstop Lisa Carey was named a third-team NFCA All-American. Velazquez, a senior first baseman, became the first Sooner softball player in school history to make the first team.
Velazquez and Carey became the sixth and seventh OU players to be named All-Americans. This is the first year that two players were chosen in the same season. Also, this is the sixth straight year that a Sooner player has made the All-America list. Other OU softball All-Americans include: Becky Burroughs (1994 - second team), Brea Moore (1995 - third team), Jill Most (1996, 1997 - second team) and Lana Moran (1998 - third team).
Sooner Quick Notes:
- OUs .978 fielding percentage ranked first in the nation this year. It also broke last seasons school record (.974). The Sooners fielding percentage last season was fourth-best in the nation.
- Lynette Velazquez tied the school record RBIs in a single season with 61. Casey Dickson also finished with 61 RBIs in 1997, but she did it in 184 at-bats, while Velazquez accomplished the feat in 167 at-bats.
- Velazquez broke the school record for home runs in a single season (20) and broke the school record for homers in a career (27).
- OU had eight games this season canceled due to inclement weather.
- Lana Moran struggled this season after finishing 23-9 last year and being named a third-team All-American. The junior left-handed pitcher battled through an ACL injury all year long and finished with a 10-8 overall record and a 2.05 ERA. She did throw a perfect game in OUs 4-0 victory over Northwestern, Feb. 13.
- But Moran did not let her tough year affect her performance in the classroom. She was named to the All-Big 12 Academic First Team and to the All-Midwest Academic Team.
- The Sooners finished with a 7-13 record against 13 teams in the final USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll.
- Sophomore catcher Ashli Barrett was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team.
Sooners Crowned 1999 Big 12 Champions
OU won the regular-season Big 12 Conference championship after compiling an 11-3 record. The Sooners finished just ahead of the second-place Texas Longhorns, who had a 10-4 conference record. The Longhorns and the Sooners spilt a doubleheader (2-1, 0-1) in Austin, Texas, in their only conference meeting. It was the second regular-season Big 12 Championship for OU. The Sooners won in 1996, the inaugural year of the Big 12 Conference. OU became the first team in the conference to win two Big 12 regular-season championships.
Big 12 Conference Final Standings
Final USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll
|2. Washington (0-1)||51-18|
|5. Fresno State (0-2)||65-10|
|7. Arizona State||41-29|
|8. Southern Mississippi (0-1)||52-9|
|9. SW Louisiana (0-1)||54-11|
|10. Oregon State||47-25|
|11. Louisiana State (1-1)||55-10|
|13. Illinois-Chicago (0-1)||67-17|
|14. Michigan State (1-0)||41-23|
|15. Missouri (1-0)||41-21|
|17. Massachusetts (1-0)||43-10|
|18. Texas (1-2)||45-17|
|19. South Carolina||49-21|
|20. Nebraska (1-2)||33-21|
|24. Texas Tech (0-2)||36-31|
|25. Oregon (1-0)||40-29|
*-Teams OU faced are italicized and records against each are in ( ).