NORMAN, Okla. - After spending its spring break in California at the Judi Garman Classic, the No. 15 Oklahoma softball team (22-8-1) will hit the road for its final non-conference tune up before Big 12 play begins.
The Sooners are headed to Denton, Texas, Wednesday to take on the Mean Green of North Texas for the third time this season. OU and UNT will meet in a 5 p.m. contest at Denia Park.
After its meeting against North Texas, OU will return home for its conference opener. The Sooners will host Missouri in a two-game series this weekend, March 25-26, at the OU Softball Complex. Saturday’s game against the Tigers is slated for 1 p.m. while Sunday’s contest will begin at 12 p.m.
The Sooners will remain at home for a doubleheader against Texas Tech next Tuesday. The first game of the twin bill will start at 5 p.m. while the second contest is slated for 7 p.m.
All four conference games can be viewed live on the O-Zone for all subscribing viewers. Additionally, the second game of the doubleheader against Texas Tech will be broadcast live on the Sooners’ flagship station, KOKC (1520 AM) with Brian Brinkley calling the one-man show.
SCOUTING NORTH TEXAS
The Sooners and Mean Green will meet for the third of four contests this season. One week ago, Oklahoma hosted the Mean Green in the OU/Worth Invitational and handed UNT two losses (10-1, 10-5).
Entering Wednesday night’s meeting, North Texas owns an 11-14 record, its best start in the three-year history of the program. UNT’s last win came in a 7-0 shutout of Utah Valley State in the OU/Worth Invitational.
Headlining the UNT lineup is junior third baseman Susan Waters who owns a .370 clip on the season, including a team-best nine home runs and 25 RBI. Two of Waters’ homers this season came in one game against the Sooners. Waters earned Sun Belt Player of the Week honors for her efforts in the OU/Worth Invitational where she pounded six RBI on seven hits in four games.
In the circle, sophomore hurler Kristina Fowler owns the squad’s best mark with a 9-5 overall record and a 3.97 ERA. However, freshman Jessica Smith (2-9, 5.90 ERA) started both games against the Sooners two weeks ago. Smith took both losses against the Sooners after giving up four runs on eight hits in game one and throwing the complete game in meeting No. 2, allowing 10 runs on 10 hits.
North Texas will be looking for its first win all-time against the Sooners as Oklahoma has dominated the series history, 9-0. The Sooners notched two wins against the Mean Green two weeks ago in the OU/Worth Invitational (March 11-12). Oklahoma took the Saturday game, 10-1, and recorded a 10-5 victory in Sunday’s action at the tournament.
The Sooners will be playing only their third “true” road game of the season Wednesday night. Opponent territory has been kind to the Sooners. Their first road test of the year came against UNLV in the UNLV Alexis Resort Kickoff Classic in OU’s third game of the season (Feb. 11) and resulted in a 5-3 OU victory. In its second road contest, the Sooners shut out Tulsa, 8-0, in five innings.
Oklahoma snapped its seven-game winning streak this past week after posting a 2-2 overall record at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif. However, the Sooners continue to be an offensive force for opposing teams to deal with. Currently, Oklahoma’s .321 team batting average ranks tops in the Big 12 (sharing the lead with Nebraska). Additionally, the Sooners lead the conference in slugging percentage (.505), runs (201), hits (268), doubles (52) and RBI (184).
Individually, All-America candidates Kristin Vesely and Norrelle Dickson have been instrumental in the Sooners’ offensive success. Vesely leads the conference with a .500 batting average while remaining flawlessly defensive in center field while Dickson has sparked the Sooner lineup this season as the leadoff batter and his hitting a team-best .587 when leading off the inning.
In the circle, Oklahoma has five pitchers, but it has been the rookies that have been the go-to in the circle. Freshman D.J. Mathis owns a staff-best 1.53 ERA with a 7-1 record on the year while fellow freshman Morgan Hudsonpillar follows with a 2.32 ERA and a 4-2 mark while leading the team with 33 strikeouts.
JUDI GARMAN CLASSIC IN REVIEW
Oklahoma finished its final regular season tournament, the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., with a 2-2 overall mark. OU opened the tourney with a 4-1 victory over Utah, but snapped its seven-game winning streak in a 5-0 defeat by No. 6 Alabama.
The Sooners bounced back with a 4-3 victory over No. 24 Fresno State, avenging an earlier season loss against the Bulldogs and making their way to the quarterfinals of the Championship bracket where they faced No. 18 Texas A&M. OU dropped a close 7-6 loss to the Aggies and were sent to the consolation bracket where they were slated to play host school Cal State Fullerton until the rain cancelled the contest.
In the recent ESPN.com/USA Softball poll (March 17), the Sooners fell two spots to No. 17 in the weekly poll. The Sooners currently sit at No. 14 in the USA Today/NFCA poll that was released March 15, but the new one had not been released as of press time. The Sooners have been ranked in the top 25 of every NFCA poll since its inception, which spans 147 weeks long. OU and Arizona are the only programs to be ranked in the NFCA Top-25 every week of its existence.
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 center fielder is even more impressive in 2006 as she owns a .480 clip (third in Big 12) while averaging 1.6 hits a game and has already surpassed last season’s RBI mark with 15 through 31 games in 2006. Below is a look at how Dickson stacks up against the top Big 12 leadoff batters:
Though 31 games this 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 28 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 second on squad with 27 RBI and third on team with a .338 batting average
- Dickenson is one of seven Sooners to hit multiple home runs this season
- Mathis (1.53 ERA) and Hudsonpillar (2.32 ERA) lead the staff in ERA this season
- Mathis hasn’t given up an earned run in her last three appearances and leads the staff with a 7-1 overall mark
- Shortstop Jessica Legendre had clutch hits in the final inning of two come-from-behind victories at the UNLV Classic
It didn’t take long, but feisty left-handed freshman hurler D.J. Mathis has adjusted to the college game. In the second half of the non-conference season, the rookie has come on as the Sooners’ top hurler as she leads the team with a 1.53 ERA and a 7-1 overall record in the circle. Below is a comparison of her first 16 games in a Sooner uniform to the past 15 of the non-conference season:
TWO OUT RALLY
Oklahoma is using a two-out rally to score most of its runs this season as the Sooners are batting .310 (84-for-271) and have driven in 44 percent (80 of 184) of their RBI with two outs. No player has shown this skill more than Kristin Vesely who has pounded 19 of her team-leading 30 RBI with two outs.
Notable streaks entering the Norman Residence Inn Invitational:
215 - Consecutive games started by Kristin Vesely.
147 - 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
10 - Consecutive games with an extra-base hit
9 - Consecutive games won against North Texas
6 - Consecutive Regional Championships
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 Feb. 15.
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.
SOONERS HEADLINING BIG 12 OFFENSE
OU’s Norrelle Dickson and Kristin Vesely are highlighting the Big 12’s offense so far this season. Dickson, a junior left fielder, leads the league with 49 hits on the season, a 1.58 per game average. Vesely, a senior center fielder, is right behind Dickson with 48 hits (second in the Big 12) on the season for a 1.55 per game average.
Additionally, Dickson, Vesely and Amber Spaulding, a junior right fielder, are the top three in the conference in runs scored. Dickson leads with 38 scored on the year while Vesely is second with 30 on the season and Spaulding follows with 29 on the year (third in the league).
A third note is that Vesely and Dickson are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in on base percentage for the conference. Vesely leads the Big 12 with a .565 mark while Dickson is second with a .546 clip.
Another stat is that Vesely ranks first in the conference with 30 RBI while freshman Samantha Ricketts holds the sixth spot with 27 RBI on the year.
The Sooners lead the Big 12 in doubles thanks to Vesely and sophomore Savannah Long. Vesely shares the conference lead with nine two-baggers on the year while Long is right behind Vesely with 8 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 .321 clip. The Sooners are also tops in on base percentage (.404), slugging percentage (.505), runs (201), hits (268), doubles (52), RBI (184) and base on balls (98).
The Sooners have taken advantage of runners in scoring position as Oklahoma is hitting at a .573 clip with a runner at third and less than two outs. In addition, the duo of Norrelle Dickson (.750), Kristin Vesely (.571) are key components in advancing runners this season.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ’D
The Sooners are second in the Big 12 with a .973 fielding percentage with 24 errors committed this season despite starting three freshmen in the infield. OU’s 24 errors are the second-lowest in the Big 12 despite 599 put outs. Nebraska owns the least amount of errors with 16, but has only recorded 467 put outs on the year.
EXTRA BASE HITS
OU has posted an extra-base hit in 28 of 31 games this season, including 23 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 14 extra base hits on the year (9 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR) while Amber Spaulding follows with 13 on the season (5 2B, 1 3B, 7HR).
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.
TWO SOONERS ON POY WATCH LIST
Oklahoma softball players Kristin Vesely and Norrelle Dickson have been named to the initial watch list for the 5th annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award, announced the Amateur Softball Association, the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States. It marks the second straight season that Dickson, a junior, has been named to the preseason watch list. Vesely was a semifinalist for the award last season, but was not on the initial 2005 preseason list.
SPAULDING NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Senior right fielder Amber Spaulding was named the Big 12’s Player of the Week on March 14 for games played March 6-12. It marks Spaulding’s first league weekly accolade. Spaulding led the Sooners to a perfect 5-0 record this past week. She hit .529 (9-for-17) with 13 RBI, including a home run in four consecutive games. The Fontana, Calif. native also recorded a 1.353 slugging percentage and a .600 on-base percentage.
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 as well as the designated player. Providing stability in center field will be 2005 second team All-American Kristin Vesely, a four-year starter in the outfield.