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Softball Hosts Tulsa Tonight at 7 p.m.
April 18, 2006

NORMAN, Okla. - The No. 21 Oklahoma softball team (27-17-1) will continue its home stand as it steps out of conference play this Wednesday to take on the University of Tulsa (27-14) for the second time this season.  First pitch between the Sooners and the Golden Hurricane will be thrown out at 7 p.m. at the OU Softball Complex.  OU handed TU an 8-0 run rule victory when the teams met in Tulsa on March 8.

MEDIA EXPOSURE
The game will be broadcast live with Brian Brinkley providing the play-by-play and Sooner alum Kami Keiter providing color analysis.  The action can be heard live on KOKC (1520 AM).

Additionally, the game will be available to view for all O-Zone members on SoonerSports.com. Live stats of both games will be available on SoonerSports.com.

Live O-Zone Webcast | O-Zone?

TICKETS AND PROMOTIONS
Seats to Wednesday night’s game are still available for $10 (reserved), $7 (adult general admission), $5 (youth general admission) and $3 (groups of ten or more must be ordered 24 hrs in advance) at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and at SoonerSports.com.  The gates will open an hour and a half before game time.

The first 250 fans through the gates on Wednesday will receive foam O’s and U’s.  Wednesday night is also $.50 hot dog and coke night.

ON DECK
Following Tulsa’s game, the Sooners will head to Ames, Iowa, for their final Big 12 road trip of the season as they take on Iowa State in the weekend series.  OU and ISU will play a 2 p.m. contest on Saturday and round out the series with an 11 a.m. game on Sunday.

The squad will return home for part two of Bedlam next Wednesday, April 26.  The Sooners and Cowgirls will meet in a 7 p.m. contest at the OU Softball Complex.

WEEKEND IN REVIEW
In the past two weeks, the Sooners played eight of their last nine games against top-25 teams, ending the run with a home series against No. 2 Texas this past weekend.  In Friday night’s game, Oklahoma dropped a 9-4 contest to the Longhorns.  Senior Kristin Vesely led the Sooner offense with a 2-for-3 outing, including her fourth home run of the season, a career high for a season.  Right fielder Jamie Fox and Samantha Ricketts also added a home run, but it wasn’t enough as Texas recorded 15 hits and OU threw four different pitchers in the contest.

Saturday’s action resulted in a UT 2-0 shutout of OU after Texas pitcher Cat Osterman posted her fifth no-hitter of the year.  After giving up two runs in the first inning, OU starter D.J. Mathis settled down and didn’t allow another run while only giving up four hits in the next six innings.

SCOUTING TULSA
The Golden Hurricane enter Wednesday night’s contest with a 27-14 overall record, including a 4-3 mark on the road.  Additionally, Tulsa has had a week’s rest after splitting a doubleheader with Wichita State last Wednesday at home.  The similar opponents between the two programs are Baylor, Nebraska, Indiana and Oklahoma State.  The Golden Hurricane dropped losses to Baylor, Nebraska and Indiana while notching a win over Oklahoma State.

Offensively, the TU squad is batting .276 with Katie Torres leading the way as the first baseman owns a .333 overall clip and leads the squad with eight home runs and 67 total bases on the season.  In the earlier meeting this year, Mathis held Torres hitless.  An additional offensive contributor is Sara Dyer, who leads the team with 32 RBI, including eight doubles and five home runs, while posting a .306 batting average.

The Tulsa pitching staff has three members that have combined for a team ERA of 2.55 while averaging 5.4 strikeouts per game and holding opponents to a .253 clip.  Senior Maren Genow owns a 13-6 record with a staff-best 2.40 ERA.  Genow has made 24 appearances this season and hurled three solo shutouts.  Junior Julie Fennell (2.59 ERA, 9-5) and freshman Katie Lee (2.80 ERA, 5-3) have also shared time in the circle this season.
   
TULSA SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma owns a solid 26-4 all-time record against Tulsa, but the TU has won four of the last six meetings between the programs.  The last time TU won in Norman was last season when it posted a 6-2 victory over the Sooners at the OU Softball Complex on April 20, 2005.

LAST TIME THEY MET
Led by freshman pitcher D.J. Mathis’ one-hit shutout and home runs by Amber Spaulding and Traci Dickenson, OU handed Tulsa (11-6) an 8-0 run-rule loss in five innings earlier this season (3/8).  It marked the Sooners’ first win at the Donna J. Hardesty Softball Complex since 2003.

Mathis picked up her third win of the season after giving up only one hit and no runs while striking out a then career-high five batters.  TU starter Maren Genow gave up eight earned runs on nine hits in four complete innings of work.

Offensively, Savannah Long went two-for-two, including a double and two RBI while Norrelle Dickson had a 3-for-3 outing at the plate.  Additionally, Amber Spaulding and Traci Dickenson each tallied home runs in the contest.

PLAYER TO WATCH: SAMANTHA RICKETTS
The rookie continues to be a bright spot for the young Sooner ball club.  Ricketts, the designated player, shares a team-best seven home runs with Amber Spaulding.  The California native has batted .421 during OU’s six-game stretch against top-25 teams.

Currently, Ricketts is hitting .352 for the season and shares a team-best 39 RBI while tallying a .592 slugging percentage.

SOONER UPDATE
Playing six straight Big 12 games against top-25 teams in the last week, the Sooners will step out of conference play and look to build momentum for its final two weeks of the season. 

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 .310 clip and 242 RBI through 45 games.  The catalysts for the Sooner offense have been 2005 All-Americans Kristin Vesely (.464, 39 RBI) and Norrelle Dickson (.446, 18 stolen bases).

Additionally, OU has two other Sooners hitting over .300 in Samantha Ricketts (.352, 7 home runs, 39 RBI) and Savannah Long (.305, 11 doubles, 22 RBI).

With such a youthful staff, the Oklahoma pitchers have struggled at times but are steadily improving.  Freshman D.J. Mathis is coming off a solid performance against No. 2 Texas where she allowed only two earned runs on seven hits in the complete seven-inning game. The freshman lefty is the leader of the five-member staff as she owns a 10-5 record with a 2.65 ERA.  Also making strong contributions is fellow freshman Morgan Hudsonpillar who owns a 5-4 record and a 3.34  ERA in 23 appearances.
 
TOP-25
The Sooners fell to No. 21 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll released April 18 and Oklahoma appears in the USA Today/NFCA poll for the 150th straight week as the Sooners stayed at No. 21 in the poll released April 12, 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.

BIG 12 HISTORY
OU has an all-time record of 144-48 (.750) in Big 12 games  .... Oklahoma’s 144 wins and .750 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).

NON-CONFERENCE FOES
In non-conference action this season, the Sooners have put together a 23-7-1 mark, including a 10-3 mark at home.  OU has won nine of its last 10 non-conference games and has won the last five straight at home.

OU VS. NCAA FIELD
In addition to leading the Big 12 in offense, the Sooners are also among the top offensive teams, nationally.  Below is a look at where Oklahoma stands as a team and individually among NCAA teams as of April 16. 

NCAA Team Rankings  

Category

Stat

Rank

Scoring (runs per game)

5.87

10th

Batting Average

.310

20th

Doubles Per Game

1.51

21st

Slugging Percentage

.477

22nd

NCAA Individual Rankings

Batting Average

Stat

Rank

Kristin Vesely

.464

8th

Norrelle Dickson

.446

13th

Runs Scored (per game)

 

 

Norrelle Dickson

1.07

8th

IT TAKES SEVEN TO WIN 
The lucky number for OU this year has been seven as the Sooners are 17-0-1 when scoring seven or more runs in a game.  Conversely, Oklahoma is 10-17 when not scoring seven plus runs.

SCORE FIRST = SUCCESS 
Scoring first has been a key in OU’s victories this season as the Sooners are 22-3 when getting on the board first and are 16-5 when scoring in the first inning. 

SOONERS AGAINST TOP-25 
Oklahoma has faced a tough schedule so far this year as the Sooners have played 17 of their 45 games against top-25 competition, winning four of them.

Against top competition, senior Kristin Vesely has been the leader with a .321 clip, including three home runs and 30 total bases with a .566 slugging percentage.

VESELY SELECTED AS FINALIST FOR USA SOFTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Senior center fielder Kristin Vesely has been named one of 25 candidates for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, announced the Amateur Softball Association, the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States.  It marks the second consecutive year that Vesely has made the list of 25.  Vesely was on the Preseason Watch List that was comprised of 40 players.  She was joined by fellow Sooner Norrelle Dickson.

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.

STREAKS
Notable streaks entering the game against Tulsa:
228  - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
151  - 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 - Consecutive wins for OU in the Bedlam Series
6  - Consecutive Regional Championships
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 .464 clip while Dickson follows in second with a .446 overall season batting average. 

Dickson leads the league with 66 hits on the season, a 1.47 per game average.

Additionally, Dickson and Vesely are the top two in the conference in runs scored.  Dickson leads with 48 scored on the year while Vesely is second with 40 on the season.

Vesely (.530) and Dickson (.517) are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in on base percentage for the conference. 

Vesely and freshman Samantha Ricketts are tied for third in the conference with 39 RBI each

The Sooners lead the Big 12 in doubles thanks to Vesely and sophomore Savannah Long.  Vesely is second in the league with 12 two-baggers on the year while Long is right behind Vesely with 11 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 .310 clip.  The Sooners are also tops in on base percentage (.386), runs (264), hits (380), doubles (68), RBI (242) and base on balls (122).

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. 

STARTER WORKHORSES
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 45 games this season.  Senior Kristin Vesely has started 42 games in center field and three at catcher while junior Norrelle Dickson has 38 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 eight 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 also started three games at catcher.

LEADOFF POWER
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 .446 clip (second in Big 12) while averaging a Big 12-best 1.47 hits per game and has already surpassed last season’s RBI mark with 18 through 45 games in 2006.  Below is a look at how Dickson stacks up against other top leadoff batters in the conference:

Top Big 12 Leadoff Batters                    

Player

Avg.

2B

3B

RBI

SB

Norrelle Dickson (Oklahoma)

.446

7

3

18

18

Lizzy Aumua (Nebraska)

.412

5

3

11

19

Desiree Williams (Texas)

.379

7

3

10

12

Kelly Osburn (Baylor)

.328

7

0

29

12

SEEING DOUBLE
OU’s opponents might feel like they’re seeing double as the Sooners have successfully turned 19 double plays in 2006, a Big 12 best.  Oklahoma State owns the second-best margin in the Big 12 with 15 this season.  Only four other schools in the NCAA have more double plays.  They are Campbell (23), Georgia Tech (23), Jacksonville (23) and Furman (22).

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 14 double plays turned on the season.

FRESHMEN SENSATIONS
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 45 games this season.  Currently, Traci Dickenson and Jessica Legendre are starting on the left side of the infield while Samantha Ricketts has started 40 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 third in the Big 12 with 39 RBI and currently owns a .366 batting average in Big 12 play
Dickenson has homered five times on the season
Mathis (2.65 ERA) and Hudsonpillar (3.34 ERA) lead the staff in ERA this season
Shortstop Jessica Legendre has helped turn seven of OU’s 19 double plays this year

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 39 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 .299 (120-of-402) and have driven in 40 percent (98-of-242) of their RBI with two outs.  No player has shown this skill more than Kristin Vesely who has pounded 21 of her team-leading 39 RBI with two outs.

CLUTCH PERFORMERS
The Sooners have taken advantage of runners in scoring position as Oklahoma is hitting at a .578 clip with a runner at third and less than two outs.  In addition, the threesome of Kristin Vesely (.600), Samantha Ricketts (.750) and Norrelle Dickson (.778) have been extremely successful with a runner on third and less than two outs.

EXTRA BASE HITS
The Sooners are second in the Big 12 in extra base hits with 113 on the season.  OU has posted an extra-base hit in 36 of 45 games this season, including 30 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 19 extra base hits on the year (12 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR) while Samantha Ricketts (9 2B, 7 HR) follows with 16 on the season.

WORTH NOTING ...
OU’s win over Texas A&M (4/8) snapped the Aggies’ 20-game streak of home conference wins that dated back to April 22, 2003 ... The Sooners’  15 hits in the win over Texas A&M marked the most hits the Aggies have given

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