OU Sweeps Big 12 Individual End-of-Year Awards
NORMAN — After becoming the first team in Big 12 history to finish conference play undefeated in back-to-back seasons, the No. 1/1 Oklahoma softball team earned every individual award from the league on Wednesday and placed all eight nominees on the all-conference teams.
Sydney Romero was named Player of the Year, Giselle Juarez was tabbed Pitcher of the Year, Caleigh Clifton earned Defensive Player of the Year, Grace Green claimed Freshman of the Year and Patty Gasso was awarded Coach of the Year.
This is the first time in Big 12 history that one school has swept every individual award.
One of 10 finalists for 2019 USA Softball Player of the Year, Romero finished the regular season leading the Big 12 in batting average (.431), home runs (17), RBIs (51) and total bases (144) while ranking second in slugging (.862), runs scored (55) and hits (72). Nationally, the San Diego, Calif., native sits in second in total bases, 13th in slugging, 15th in runs per game (1.1), 19th in home runs, 21st in strikeout rate (27.8 at-bats per strikeout) and 23rd in batting average.
Also a finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year, Juarez is undefeated in her first season in the Crimson and Cream with a 21-0 record in the circle, including a 9-0 mark in conference play. She has registered two perfect games in 2019, including one in Big 12 play, to become the first league pitcher since Paige Parker in 2015 to have multiple perfect games in a season. A native of Glendale, Ariz., Juarez earned six Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors this season, including the last four, and registered double-digit strikeouts in her last five starts of the season, all against conference foes. In league play, Juarez led the Big 12 in strikeouts per seven innings pitched (10.11) and wins while ranking second in total strikeouts (78), shutouts (three) and opponent batting average (.144) and third in ERA (1.17)
Behind senior captain Clifton’s defensive play, the Sooners lead Division I softball with a .987 fielding percentage. Clifton started 49 of OU’s 50 games at second base this year, including all 18 Big 12 games, and has been an anchor for the Sooner infield with over 230 starts at second. She committed just one error in conference play and has assisted on a team-high nine double plays in 2019 with three against league foes.
Green becomes the fifth consecutive Sooner to be named Big 12 Freshman of the Year. One of 25 finalists for the 2019 NFCA Freshman of the Year, Green led the Big 12 in home runs (9), RBIs (27), total bases (53) and slugging percentage (1.000) during conference games this year. She also paced all conference freshmen in batting average (.415), hits (22), runs scored (17), on-base percentage (.476) and slugging (1.000) in league contests. On the year, she leads all Big 12 freshmen in batting average (.403), hits (54), home runs (14), runs scored (42), RBIs (48), total bases (102), on-base percentage (.478), and slugging (.761)
Gasso was chosen as the Big 12 Coach of the Year for the 12th time in her career as she guided OU to an unprecedented eighth consecutive league crown with an 18-0 record, marking the first time in Big 12 history that a team was undefeated in two straight conference seasons. She has won the award in each of the last eight seasons, while no other coach in the history of the league has won the honor more than three times.
Romero, Juarez, Clifton and Green were joined by senior Falepolima Aviu and sophomore Jocelyn Alo on the All-Big 12 First Team. Six first-team selections match a program record, tying the 2000 team.
Senior Shay Knighten and junior Shannon Saile were both named to the All-Big 12 Second Team.
Green and infielder Grace Lyons were placed on the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.
Postseason play begins this weekend as the conference’s top six teams compete in the 2019 Big 12 Tournament at USA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City Friday-Saturday. As the Big 12 regular season champions, the Sooners will be the tournament's No. 1 seed.
In Friday’s pool play, the Sooners will face No. 4 seed Texas Tech at 2 p.m. before taking on No. 6 seed Kansas at 7:30 p.m.