NORMAN, Okla. - The No. 10 Oklahoma softball team has a tough week ahead as it faces two ranked teams in this weekend’s Palm Springs Classic set for Feb. 23-26 in Palm Springs, Calif.
The 23-team tournament field showcases some of the most prestigious softball programs in the country, including six of the eight teams to have won the NCAA National Championship. The field includes 18 2005 NFCA All-Americans, 15 NCAA Regional Tournament squads, three College World Series teams, and nine teams ranked in the current top-25 poll.
Oklahoma will open play against No. 24 Oregon on Thursday at 10 p.m. (CST). In Friday’s action, the Sooners will face No. 22 Fresno State in a 3 p.m. match up followed by a 10 p.m. meeting with UC-Santa Barbara. On Saturday, Oklahoma and Cal Poly will battle at 2:30 p.m. followed by a 10:30 p.m. match up with Pacific.
The Sooners will have a highly anticipated game against No. 2 UCLA to round out tournament action at 1 p.m. Sunday. The OU/UCLA match up will be also be broadcast on ESPNU (DirecTV Ch. 609). Beth Mowins will call the play-by-play and Stacey Nuveman will provide the color analysis. Live stats of all tournament games will be available through SoonerSports.com.
The Ducks (6-4), who are receiving votes in the top 25, enter the tournament with a 2-1 record against ranked teams. The Oregon squad is hitting .285 this season, which is highlighted by shortstop Breanne Sabol’s team-leading .433 batting average with eight RBI and three home runs. The staff is carried by Amy Harris who is 4-2 with a 1.87 ERA, which is a little more than the entire staff’s cumulative ERA of 1.64. After beating Oregon in last season’s Regional 14 Championship game, the Sooners lead the series 5-3.
SCOUTING NO. 23 FRESNO STATE
The Fresno State Bulldogs (4-5) arrive after dropping its last two consecutive games to No. 3 UCLA. Staff ace Robin Mackin has been the pitcher of record in all of Fresno State’s wins as she owns a 4-3 record with a 1.78 ERA. Offensively, the Bulldogs are only hitting .214, but that hasn’t stopped two-time All-American Christina Clark who owns a.429 clip this season with 13 RBI, nine hits and one home run.
SCOUTING UC-SANTA BARBARA
Posting a 5-2 mark through 2006, the Gauchos own a three-game winning streak entering the tournament Center fielder Kendra Singley leads the Gaucho offense that is hitting .266 as she owns an impressive .500 batting average with 12 hits, one home run and six RBI on the year. In the circle, Jennifer Davis posts a 2.12 ERA with a 4-1 record while the entire staff posts a 2.83 ERA.
SCOUTING CAL POLY
The Mustangs (2-8) have tallied their two wins of the season over Oklahoma State and New Mexico. Cal Poly is hitting .241 on the year behind Chelsea Green’s .400 mark, including two home runs on 12 hits. The Cal Poly staff owns a combined 5.03 ERA with sophomore Robyn Kontra posting a 2-4 record and a 3.53 ERA. In addition, the Mustangs have swiped 10 of 11 bases this season.
The Tigers arrive on a three-game losing streak after dropping a heart-breaking loss to No. 1 Arizona this past weekend in Tucson, Ariz. However, owning a 3-6 record, Pacific has tallied two wins over Santa Clara and another victory over the Big 12’s Texas Tech. Pacific’s top hitter is Gina Carbonatto who is hitting at a .531 clip with 17 hits, including three triples. The overall ERA of the staff is 3.22 while Briana Santos owns a perfect ERA in her two starts this season.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The No. 10 Oklahoma softball team played six games last week and recorded a 5-0-1 record on the week. The Sooners opened the week with a doubleheader sweep of Central Arkansas on Wednesday night, including an 8-1 victory in game one and a 9-0 run rule win in five innings.
Next, Oklahoma hosted North Dakota State in the first part of the OU/Nike Classic at the OU Softball Complex. The Sooners earned two more wins with another 9-0 victory and a 7-2 win the second game of the twin bill. OU rounded out the week in McKinney, Texas, where it moved the rest of its tournament due to weather.
The Sooners took the first game against Indiana, 10-8, but ended its winning streak in an 11-11 tie to the Hoosiers in its third straight day of doubleheaders. Oklahoma was scheduled to play its final OU/Nike Classic game against Nevada, but the game was canceled due to weather condition.
For the second straight week, the Sooners have earned a top 10 ranking the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, released Feb. 21. Oklahoma is also at No. 10 in the latest (2/15) USA Today/USA Today poll. The Sooners have been ranked in the top 25 of every NFCA poll since its inception, which spans 144 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 enjoy a long home stretch as they will play nine of their next 10 games in Norman. Upon returning from Palm Springs, OU will take on Oklahoma City University next Thursday, March 2 at 4 p.m. inside the OU Softball Complex. Following that game, Oklahoma will host the Norman Residence Inn Invitational March 4-5. Oklahoma, No. 25 LSU and Troy will make up the three-team field. The Sooners will battle LSU on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. followed by a 4:30 p.m. meeting with Troy. In Sunday’s action, Troy and Oklahoma will go head-to-head at 12:15 p.m. with OU/LSU finishing off tournament action at 2:30 p.m.
VESELY NAMED BIG 12 CO-PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Senior center fielder 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, a selection to the USA Player of the Year watch list, led No. 10 Oklahoma to a 5-0-1 record this past week as she 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. After adding two doubles and a triple on the week, the center fielder tallied a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .818 on base percentage.
Though only 11 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 Samantha Ricketts has started 10 of the 11 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:
-Totaling 33 percent of OU’s doubles in 2006
-Samantha Ricketts is hitting .458 with 11 RBI and currently ranks sixth in the Big 12 in batting average
-Rookie pitchers Morgan Hudsonpillar and D.J. Mathis lead the staff with the top two ERA.
-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 and as the designated player. Providing stability in the outfield will be 2005 second team All-American Kristin Vesely, a four-year starter in the outfield.
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 Palm Springs Classic:
195 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
144 - 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 games that OU has scored at least five runs
6 - Consecutive games that OU has hit a double
6 - Current hitting streak for Kristin Vesely
6 - Consecutive Regional Championships
4 - Current hitting streak for Samantha Ricketts
3 - Consecutive seasons Gasso has started a freshman at shortstop
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 last week.
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.
FOX BREAKS OUT
Junior outfielder Jamie Fox gave an impressive showing in OU’s six games last week. After struggling in OU’s first five games of the season with six strikeouts on a .111 clip, Fox responded and is currently on a torrid pace after hitting .529 (9-for17) with three home runs, 1 double a triple and 10 RBI in the past week.
VESELY AMONG BIG 12’S BEST
Kristin Vesely, the current Big 12 Player of the Week, ranks among the best in the Big 12, offensively. Vesely owns a .633 clip, second among all Big 12 players, and leads the league in hits (19) and triples (3) and ranks second in the conference with 14 RBI. Vesely is on the same pace as she was in 2005 when she set a school record with a 23-game hitting streak. She currently owns a six-game hitting streak in 2006.
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.