NORMAN, Okla. - The Oklahoma softball team is making its 13th straight appearance in an NCAA Division I Softball Regional, and its 12th consecutive under head coach Patty Gasso.
The Sooners enter the Michigan Regional as the second seed in the four-team bracket and will contend with top-seeded Michigan, the overall No. 9 seed, No. 3 Kent State and fourth-seeded Youngstown State during action this Friday through Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oklahoma will open Regional No. 9 action against Kent State with the first pitch set for 4:30 p.m. Friday. Host school Michigan will meet Youngstown State in the following game at 7 p.m.. The winners of both games Friday will advance to a noon contest on Saturday, which will be televised on ESPN2 with Tracy Warren (play-by-play) and Stacey Nuveman (color) calling the game.
The losers of each game on Friday will advance to a 2:30 p.m. meeting on Saturday. The four-team tourney is double elimination with the winner advancing to a Super Regional with the winner of Regional No. 8 (Tennessee, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Tennessee Tech) next weekend.
OU's opening game against Kent State will be broadcast online through Yahoo! audio with Tony Sellars calling the one-man show. If the Sooners are able to stay in the winner's bracket on Saturday and Sunday, all games will be carried on KOKC (1520 AM). If the not, the schedule could be adjusted.
The complete schedule for competition is below:
First times listed are Eastern
Friday - May 19
Game 1 - 4:30 p.m.(3:30 CST) - Oklahoma vs. Kent State
Game 2 - 7 p.m. (6 p.m. CST) - Michigan vs. Youngstown State
Saturday, May 20
Game 3 - 12 p.m. (11 a.m. CST) - Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 (Televised on ESPN2)
Game 4 - 2:30 p.m.(1:30 p.m. CST) - Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2
Game 5 - 5 p.m. (4 p.m. CST) - Winner of Game 4 vs. Loser of Game 3
Sunday, May 21
Game 6 - 1 p.m. (12 p.m. CST) - Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 5
Game 7 - 3:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. CST) - If necessary game (only necessary if winner of game 5 defeats winner of Game 3 at 1 p.m.)
The Sooners will be aiming for their seventh straight Regional Championship and own a record of 23-1 in those appearances. OU owns an 0-2 mark in Super Regional action after losing to Arizona twice in Tucson in 2005, the first year the Super Regionals existed.
OU’s lone loss in the last six years in Regionals came against Louisiana Lafayette in 2004 in the championship game, but the Sooners responded with 15-0 run rule win in the second game of the doubleheader to advance to their fifth straight Women’s College World Series appearance.
In postseason action, Michigan is the only team the Sooners have faced before. In its second trip to the Women’s College World Series in 2001, the defending champion Sooners handed the Wolverines a 2-0 shut out in the opening game of the WCWS.
AGAINST THE FIELD
OU played 48 percent of its games this season (28) against teams in the NCAA Postseason field of 64. Oklahoma owned a 13-14-1 record against the field with a winning percentage of .482. In those 28 games, the Sooners have barely outscored the opposition, 116-115, with 13 of those games being decided by two runs or less.
* Oklahoma has outscored its opponents in the last five regionals by a combined total of 104-23.
* The Sooners are aiming for their seventh straight NCAA Regional Championship.
* OU is making its 13 straight appearance in an NCAA Regional.
* OU is 1-1 when facing the defending National Champion in postseason play.
* The Sooners defeated UCLA (1999 National Champs) in the 2000 title game to win the school’s first Women’s College World Series while they were eliminated form the 2003 WCWS by California (2002 WCWS Champions).
SCOUTING KENT STATE
Kent State enters weekend play with a 32-22 overall record and a 20-5 mark in the Mid-American Conference. Additionally, the Golden Flashes are on a roll after winning the program’s first ever MAC Tournament this past weekend after upsetting top-seeded Western Michigan in the final.
The Flashes broke the school record for runs scored in one season (242) set by the 1990 team that went to the College World Series. KSU also set the school record for post-season victories (four) breaking the 1990 squad’s mark.
Head coach Karen Linder (Otterbein College, ’80) is in her ninth season with the team and is assisted by Shannon Salsburg (Penn State, ’98) and Radara McHugh (North Carolina, ’02).
Offensively, the Golden Flashes are hitting .268 on the year but lead all four teams in the regional with 54 home runs on the year. Clean up hitter Jamie Fitzpatrick is guiding the offensive charge with a team-leading 11 home runs and 36 RBI while hitting at a .293 clip. Shortstop Jessica Toocheck is also setting the tone at the top of the lineup with a .319 average, including eight home runs and 25 RBI.
In the circle, KSU prefers junior Brittney Robinson who posts a 30-11 mark in 268 complete innings pitched. She has thrown 35 complete games with 11 shutouts on a 1.12 ERA.
In the series history, OU leads 3-0 after handing the Golden Flashes three losses in 1994.
The defending National Champions enter the NCAA Tournament on a roll after winning nine of their last 10 games and claiming the Big Ten Tournament crown for the second consecutive year. The Wolverines (40-13, 14-4 Big Ten) are coached by Carol Hutchins (Michigan State, ’79) who is in her 21st season with the Michigan softball program. Assisting Hutchins are associate head coach Bonnie Tholl (Michigan, ’91) and assistant head coach Jennifer Brundage (UCLA, ’95).
The Wolverines have been impressive in the circle with senior right hander Jennie Ritter, who ranks fourth in the NCAA in ERA (0.64) and sixth in strikeouts (11.7 per game). Ritter, one of 10 finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year, is currently on a scoreless streak of 26 consecutive innings while holding opponents to a .126 clip. Additional help on the circle comes from junior Lorilyn Wilson (10-6, 1.53 ERA) who is contributing to UM’s 0.92 overall ERA (second in the country).
At the plate, UM is hitting .266 with senior catcher Becky Marx (.350) and sophomore Samantha Findlay (.315), the MVP of the WCWS last year, leading the way. Together the three and four hitters in the lineup have combined for 20 home runs, 83 RBI and 185 total bases. Marx was an Big Ten All-Tournament selection after hitting .545 with five RBI while Findlay was also one of six Wolverines named to the all-tournament team after hitting .333 (one home run) in the tourney.
Michigan owns the 10-5 advantage in the all-time series, but Oklahoma claimed the lone postseason contest with a 2-0 shutout in the opening game of the 2001 WCWS.
SCOUTING YOUNGSTOWN STATE
Youngstown State University enters NCAA Regional play with an overall mark of 22-25, one of only two teams with a losing record in the field of 64. However, the Penguins were winners of the Horizon League Championship last weekend to receive an automatic bid to the tournament. Head coach Christy Cameron (California (Pa.), ’96) is in her seventh year with the Penguins and is assisted by Zetta Dumkrieger (Youngstown State, ’03).
The squad carries a .280 batting average into the postseason to go with 57 doubles, six triples and 33 home runs. Senior lefty Tiffany Patteson has the team’s best batting average (.356) and as the leadoff batter owns a .403 on base percentage. The power comes from rookie catcher Kristen McDonnell (.327) who leads the team with 10 home runs and 31 RBI on the season with a .605 slugging percentage.
Pitching wise, the Penguins’ usually throw right-handed junior Karlie Burnell who posts a 3.07 ERA with a 16-8 record while holding opposing batters to a .265 average. Fellow hurler Tricia Hilbish (6-10, 3.68 ERA) has also seen 102.2 innings of action this season.
If the Penguins and Sooners face each other, it will mark the first ever meeting between the two programs.
PLAYER TO WATCH: SAMANTHA RICKETTS
The lone Big 12 freshman to earn All-Big 12 first team honors has been hot for the Sooners in the past 10 games where she is hitting .462 with two home runs and 10 RBI on an impressive .731 slugging percentage and only one strikeout.
In her first career postseason action, Ricketts was a force at the plate with a .545 batting average and a .909 slugging percentage with one home run and six RBI. She was selected to the Big 12 All-Tournament team for her efforts.
VESELY FINISHES AS ONE OF 25 USA SOFTBALL PLAYER OF YEAR FINALISTS
Senior center fielder Kristin Vesely was 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 marked the second consecutive year that Vesely has made the list of 25. Unlike last year, the senior did not make the final list of 10 that was announced May 10. Vesely was on the Preseason Watch List that was comprised of 40 players and was joined by fellow Sooner Norrelle Dickson.
Notable streaks entering the NCAA Regional:
241 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
154 - Consecutive weeks since the inception of the NFCA Poll that OU has been ranked in the top-25.
69 - Consecutive games Kristin Vesely has not committed an error, dating back to May 1, 2005
13 - Consecutive trips to the NCAA postseason
12 - Consecutive seasons of 40 or more wins, 11 under Gasso.
10 - Consecutive seasons with five or more All-Big 12 selections
9 - Consecutive wins for OU in the Bedlam Series
8 - Consecutive years that OU has won its opening game in an NCAA Regional
8 - Norrelle Dickson’s current hitting streak which ties the team’s longest of the season
6 - Consecutive Regional Championships
3 - Consecutive seasons Gasso has started the season with a freshman at shortstop
SOONERS BEST ALL SCHOOLS WITH FOUR SOONERS ON BIG 12 ALL-TOURNEY TEAM
In addition to its run to the Big 12 title game as the No. 5 seed, Oklahoma led all schools with four Sooners being named to the Big 12 All-Tournament team. Freshman Samantha Ricketts led the way for OU after hitting .545 in tournament action with six RBI and .909 slugging percentage.
Joining Ricketts on the team were fellow freshman D.J. Mathis (2-1, 1.00 ERA), junior Amber Spaulding (.444, 5 RBI) and senior Kristin Vesely (.308, 3 RBI).
It marked the second honor for Vesely, who also earned all-tourney honors as a freshman in 2003, and the first honor of their career for Ricketts, Mathis and Spaulding.
FIVE SOONERS NAMED TO ALL-BIG 12 TEAMS
Oklahoma landed five players on the All-Big 12 teams that were announced Wednesday afternoon at the annual pre-Big 12 Championship Banquet. Kristin Vesely, Norrelle Dickson and Samantha Ricketts highlighted the first team while Savannah Long and Traci Dickenson comprised the second team. The Sooners have placed at least five members on the All-Big 12 teams every year since the inception of the league in 1996.
For Vesely, it was the fourth All-Big 12 honor of her career and third first team honor. Dickson picked up her second straight first team All-Big 12 honor while it marks Long, Ricketts and Dickenson’s first All-Big 12 accolade.
BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS
OU leads all Big 12 schools with 47 Player/Pitcher of the Weeks awards since 1996, including three awards this season Below are the details:
Junior left fielder Norrelle Dickson capped off the Big 12 Player of the Week selections as she was the third Sooner named a POW in the conference’s final week of honoring a player (May 8). Dickson batted an impressive .818 and led OU to three straight non-conference victories in its final week of regular season play.
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.
VESELY AND DICKSON INVITED TO USA SOFTBALL CAMP
Current OU softball players Norrelle Dickson and Kristin Vesely have been invited to USA Softball’s upcoming selection camps for the 2006 World University Games team. Additionally, former Sooner All-American Lisa Carey has also been extended an invitation to the USA Softball Women’s National Team Selection Camp.
The 27 participants invited to the World University Team Selection Camp come from 11 different colleges. Dickson and Vesely, both 2005 All-Americans, join Texas’ Tina Boutelle and Desiree Williams as the only Big 12 representatives invited to the World University team selection camp.
SOONERS HEADLINE BIG 12 OFFENSE IN REGULAR SEASON
OU’s Norrelle Dickson and Kristin Vesely finished the Big 12 regular season as the top two leaders in offense. Dickson slid ahead of Vesely for the Big 12 lead in batting average. Dickson owned a Big 12-best .463 average on the year while Vesely followed with a .449 clip (second in the Big 12).
Dickson led he league with 82 hits on the season, a 1.52 per game average, while Vesely was right behind her with a 1.39 per game average.
Additionally, Dickson and Vesely were among the top three in the conference in runs scored. Dickson led with 56 scored on the year while Vesely was tied for second with 46 plated.
Dickson (.532) and Vesely (.518) were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in on base percentage for the conference.
With her 15 doubles on the season, Vesely ranked second among the Big 12 while Savannah long was sixth with 12 two-baggers.
BIG 12 BEST - PART TWO
Along with individual leaders, the Sooners also led the conference in overall team batting with a .316 clip through all regular season contests. The Sooners were also tops in on base percentage (.390), runs (306), hits (463), doubles (79) and RBI (280).
OU VS. NCAA FIELD
In addition to leading the Big 12 in offense, the Sooners are also among the top offensive teams, nationally. To the right is a look at where Oklahoma stands as a team and individually among NCAA teams as of May 14.