April 14, 1999

Up Next . . . The eighth-ranked Oklahoma softball team continues Big 12 Conference action this weekend. Saturday, the Sooners (33-10, 6-1) play 19th-ranked Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, at noon and 2 p.m. Sunday, OU faces 15th-ranked Texas in Austin, Texas, at noon and 2 p.m.

The Aggies come into this weekend with the exact same record as OU (33-10). They are currently fourth in the Big 12 with a 4-4 record, but two of those losses, both 1-0 scores, were against 15th-ranked Texas.

A&Ms pitching staff owns the best ERA in the Big 12 at 1.14, and its offense has the second best batting average behind the Sooners at .291. Leading the Aggies inside the circle is Amy Vining. The sophomore from Deer Creek, Texas, is 18-8 overall with an impressive 0.75 ERA. She suffered two tough losses to Texas, both 1-0 scores.

The Longhorns are right on the heels of OU for first place in the conference. They are 5-1 and 32-12 overall. These two teams have seen each other once this season with Texas defeating the Sooners, 5-1, back on March 20 at the KIA Klassic in Fullerton, Calif.

The Longhorns have one of the toughest pitchers in the nation in Christa Williams. She is 15-4 overall with a 0.92 ERA. She threw a no-hitter in UTs 1-0 win over A&M, April 2. She was the winning pitcher in Texas win over OU this season as she held the Sooners to one run on three hits. Williams is likely to throw both games of the doubleheader against OU.
UTs Autumn Eastes is leading the Big 12 Conference in batting average for the season (.444). She is hitting .350 in Big 12 Conference play.

The Longhorns are winners of their last eight games.

On Deck . . . Its Bedlam time! The Sooners and the Oklahoma State Cowgirls will square off Wednesday, April 21, at the OU Softball Complex in Norman, Okla. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:35 p.m. and will air on a tape-delay basis on Fox Sports Southwest. The two teams will meet again for game two of the series, Friday April 30, in Stilwater, Okla.

The Sooners and OSU played earlier this season in the UTA/Intercollegiate Classic in Arlington, Texas. On Feb. 13, OU defeated the Cowgirls, 3-2.

Last Time Out . . . OU finished last week with a 5-1 record to improve to 33-10 overall and 6-1 in the Big 12.

It swept a doubleheader from Wichita State Tuesday, April 6, in Wichita, Kan. The Sooners won both games, 7-0. In the first contest, Jennifer Stewart threw a perfect game for OU. It was the third in school history and the second of this season for the Sooners.

This past weekend, OU participated in conference action. Saturday, the Sooners split a doubleheader with Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., 2-4 and 10-1. Sunday, OU took a doubleheader from Iowa State, 3-2 and 5-0.

Gasso the Great . . . Head Coach Patty Gasso, in only her fifth season at the helm of the Sooner program, has raised OU softball to new heights. The 1999 squad has already been ranked No. 5 in the nation after opening the season at 11th in the nation. The No. 5 ranking ties the highest by a Sooner softball team, equaling last years No. 5 ranking during part of that season.

But success isnt foreign to Gasso. She led the Sooners to the inaugural Big 12 Championship in 1996. The conference title was the first in school history and led to a No. 1 seed in NCAA Regional. Prior to the conference title, she was named Big 12 Coach of the Year and posted a 17-5 league record.

In 1997, Gasso guided the Sooners to their fourth-straight NCAA regional berth and, for the first time, was awarded an NCAA Regional. In 1998, Gassos squad finished 49-15 and advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the fifth straight season. Last years team lost in the Region 5 finals to Massachusetts, 3-1.

Last seasons second-place finish in the Big 12 continued an impressive streak by Gasso. She has never had a team finish lower than second in its conference race in her career, dating back to 1990.

Another impressive streak under Gasso is the consecutive ranking streak. The Sooners have been ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll 56 straight weeks, including this season.

Freshman Ace . . . Freshman Jennifer Stewart has gone beyond the high expectations placed on her at the beginning of the season. She has solidified herself this season as the ace of the pitching staff.

Stewart is 16-2 on the season with a 1.32 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 Tuesday in the Sooners 7-0 win over Wichita State.

In 132.1 innings pitched, Stewart has allowed 29 runs (25 earned) and has struck out 100 batters. Opponents are hitting only .175 off of the left-handed power pitcher.

For her accomplishments last week, she was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday. Stewart finished the week with a 3-0 record and a 0.64 ERA. Her 16 wins are fourth most in the Big 12 and her .175 opponent batting average ranks third in the conference.

Offense/Defense . . . Much of OUs success in the past under head coach Patty Gasso has been because of the players defensive performance. And this season is no different. OU is currently ranks first in the nation in fielding percentage (.976).
But the Sooners have added an offensive assault to the mix. OU is on top in batting average in the Big 12 (.297) and boasts the most players (4) in the top 15 in batting average in the the conference.

Velazquez En Fuego . . . To say Lynette Velazquez is in the zone would be an understatement. The senior from Huntington Beach, Calif., was named Big 12 Player of the Week Tuesday for her 10-for-20 effort at the plate last week. Included in her 10 hits were two home runs and two doubles. She also drove in seven runs to increase her total to 50 RBIs on the season.

Currently, Velazquez is the leading hitter in the majority of the hitting categories in the Big 12. She is at the top in home runs (14), RBIs (50), hits (54), slugging percentage (.802), total bases (105). Her .412 batting average is second in the conference.

Velazquezs 50 RBIs ranks second in the nation and her 14 home runs ranks fifth.

Player Contributions . . . While Velazquez has garnered most of the attention because of her outstanding season thus far, several other Sooners are putting up solid numbers this season.

Shortstop Lisa Carey is hitting .435 in OUs seven Big 12 games and .331 overall. She has 15 RBIs in conference play and 32 total RBIs on the year.

Freshman Christy Ring has done a formidable job as OUs lead-off hitter this year. She is hitting .350 and her on-base percentage is .400. Catcher Ashli Barrett has a .333 batting average with 24 RBIs and five home runs, and continues to be one of the best defensive catchers in the nation with her cannon-like arm.

Big 12 Conference Standings

Conference Overall
School W L T Pct. W L T Pct.
Oklahoma 6 1 0 .857 33 10 0 .767
Texas 5 1 0 .833 32 12 0 .727
Missouri 5 3 0 .625 31 14 0 .689
Nebraska 4 4 0 .500 20 13 0 .606
Texas A&M 3 3 0 .500 34 10 0 .767
Baylor 3 3 0 .500 22 16 0 .579
Texas Tech 3 3 0 .500 28 23 0 .549
Kansas 2 5 0 .286 16 22 0 .421
Okla. State 1 3 0 .250 15 17 0 .469
Iowa State 0 6 0 .000 14 24 0 .386

USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll (as of 4/14)
1. UCLA (25) 38-1
2. Fresno State (0-2) 43-7
3. Arizona 34-8
4. Washington (0-1) 27-9
5. SW Louisiana (0-1) 37-5
6. Michigan 35-5-1
7. Arizona State 31-11
8. OKLAHOMA 33-10
9. LSU (1-0) 32-6
10. Stanford 32-11
11. South Carolina 37-12
12. Oregon State 31-12
13. California 31-10
14. Oregon (1-0) 30-13
15. Texas (0-1) 30-12
16. Illinois-Chicago (0-1) 50-13
17. Southern Mississippi 36-5
18. South Florida 39-13
19. Texas A&M 34-10
20. New Mexico 32-8
21. Massachusetts (1-0) 26-8
22. DePaul 31-10
23. Missouri (1-0) 31-14
24. Iowa 25-14-1
25. Minnesota 28-13

* - Teams OU has faced are Italicized and records against each are in ( ).