March 7, 2013
Ranked No. 1 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll and No. 2 in the USA Today/NFCA poll, the University of Oklahoma softball team continues the 2013 season this weekend with a four-game homestand.
The Sooners' open play on Friday at 3:30 p.m. against Northern Colorado before facing Drake at 6 p.m.
*SATURDAY SCHEDULE CHANGE*
Due to rain in the forecast for Saturday afternoon, Oklahoma will now face Northern Colorado at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning before taking on Drake at 1 p.m.
All four games will stream live on SoonerSports.TV. Satuday's contests will also be tape-delayed on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Drake game will air at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, while the Northern Colorado game airs at 12:30 a.m.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Sitting at 7-11-1 on the season, Northern Colorado has lost four of its last five games. This comes after a four-game unbeaten stretch that included a 0-0, eight-inning tie with North Carolina State. The Bears have faced a pair of Big 12 teams this season, losing 8-1 to Baylor and 8-7 to Texas Tech. Friday's contest marks only the second meeting between Oklahoma and Northern Colorado. The first game in the series was played on March 23, 1982 when OU won 7-0.
Drake holds a 12-8 record on the season, most recently going 3-2 at a tournament on the Florida campus. The Bulldogs have gone 0-4 against Top-25 teams this season, but have had some close battles. They fell to No. 16 Arizona, 5-3, on Feb. 15 and both losses this past weekend came to No. 4 Florida, 4-3 and 4-1. Oklahoma has taken all four games in the all-time series against Drake and has won those games by a combined score of 41-0. Most recently, OU recorded an 8-0 win on March 9, 2008.
SOONERS STAY ATOP ESPN.COM/USA SOFTBALL POLL
Sporting an 18-1 record, the Oklahoma softball team remained No. 1 in the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25.
Despite suffering its first loss of the season last weekend, OU held on to the top spot over Alabama. After capturing 18 of 20 first-place votes last week, OU has now fallen back into a tie with the Crimson Tide as each have 10 first-place votes. However, the Sooners maintain a lead of 489-487.
The Sooners' four-week run atop the poll is the longest in school history. In fact, OU had never been No. 1 in consecutive weeks prior to this season and had been ranked No. 1 just two times in program history.
Oklahoma stayed No. 2 in the NFCA Poll, where it has been all season. The Sooners' first-place vote total fell from 11 to four, though.
TAKING ON THE TOP 25
OU is 8-1 against top 25 teams at the time of the matchup with wins over Stanford (No. 20), Oregon (No. 6), Kentucky (No. 22), Washington (No. 16), Georgia (No. 16), Arizona (No. 19) and Florida State (No. 23). The Sooners are 1-1 against Nebraska when the Huskers (No. 25) are ranked.
Through Wednesday, the Sooners lead the nation in games played against ranked teams (9), wins against top-25 teams (8) and winning percentage against top-25 teams (.889; min. 2 games).
OU won its first eight games of the year against top-25 teams, tying for the school's longest winning streak in such games. The record was initially set March 14-May 12, 2000.
It took 49 innings, but a ranked team finally scored against Oklahoma when No. 25 Nebraska plated three runs in the top of the fifth inning on March 2. At the time, OU was outscoring ranked teams 50-0. The run differential now sits at 57-4.
SEASON-OPENING STREAK STOPPED
Before a 1-0 loss to No. 25 Nebraska on March 2, the Sooners enjoyed the second-longest unbeaten streak to start a season in school history at 17-0. Only a 23-0 run to open 2007 ranks better in school annals.
In its history, OU has started the season with a 10-0 mark or better six times, all of which have come under Patty Gasso.
Under Gasso, OU has 21 winning streaks of at least 10 games
including three of at least 23 and seven of at least 15 wins.
Oklahoma's 1-2 punch of Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne has been dominant in 2013. While Ricketts is 9-0 and Gascoigne is 8-1, each has an ERA under 0.80 and is holding an opponents' batting average under .153. Ricketts has thrown seven shutouts, Gascoigne has thrown three and the pair combined on another.
Gascoigne is averaging 12.3 strikeouts per seven innings and a 9.6 strikeout to walk ratio, while Ricketts' marks in those categories stand at 10.6 and 5.8, respectively.
In eight of the 19 games this season, Oklahoma pitchers Keilani Ricketts, Michelle Gascoigne and Taylor Dewbery have helped carry a no-hitter into at least the fourth inning. Ricketts was able to finish the job in two instances, recording back-to-back no-hitters to start the season.
TAKING HOME THE HARDWARE
Oklahoma has taken home its share of awards so far this season.
It started in week one when Keilani Ricketts threw a pair of no-hitters to be named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Player of the Week, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week and the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week. In addition, Lauren Chamberlain was crowned as the Big 12 Player of the Week.
The following week, Michelle Gascoigne was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Week as she posted a 3-0 record and gave up just one earned run in 18.2 innings for a 0.38 ERA at the Campbell/Cartier Classic. She also struck out 36 and walked just two as she threw two shutouts of her own and combined on another.
Ricketts got back in on the act the following week as she posted a 3-0 record, struck out 34 batters and did not allow a single run in 23.1 innings of work, including 21.0 innings against teams ranked or receiving votes, at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
5-0 AT MARY NUTTER CLASSIC
Oklahoma posted a 5-0 record at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, including three wins over top-25 teams. OU scored a pair of 5-0 wins to take down No. 16 Georgia and No. 19 Arizona.
After a 5-2 win over UC Santa Barbara, the Sooners scratched out a 2-0 win against Nebraska before defeating No. 23 Florida State, 6-0.
In allowing just two earned runs in 35.0 innings, the Sooners sported a 0.40 earned run average.
SHULTS MAKES HISTORY
Locked in a pitchers' duel, senior Jessica Shults used a historic blast to propel Oklahoma to a 5-0 win over No. 19 Arizona on Feb. 21 at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
The solo blast in the fifth inning of a 1-0 game was her third of the year and the 57th of her career, setting a Big 12 and school record for career home runs. It broke a tie with Texas' Megan Gibson and former Sooner Amber Flores who both hit 56 homers in their respective careers.
Oklahoma opened the Campbell/Cartier Classic with four straight shutouts, defeating UC Riverside, 7-0, San Diego State, 4-0, Kentucky, 11-0, in five innings and Washington, 2-0.
It was the first time since March 9-13, 2011 that the Sooners had thrown four consecutive shutouts. Going back to the final four innings of the Northwestern contest on Feb. 10, the Sooners' run reached 35 innings without allowing a run before Notre Dame scored in the sixth inning on Feb. 17.
On the weekend, the Sooners gave up just three earned runs in 35.0 innings of work, good for a 0.60 earned run average.
RICKETTS THROWS BACK-TO-BACK NO-HITTERS
Keilani Ricketts started the 2013 season with no-hitters against No. 21 Stanford and No. 5 Oregon.
In a 6-0 win over the Cardinal, she struck out 14 batters and yielded just five baserunners. In fact, no balls put in play reached the outfield.
Ricketts then threw her second no-hitter in as many games as she shut down the Ducks, 12-0, in five innings. In earning career win No. 100, she allowed just two baserunners and struck out 10 batters.
She now has three career no-hitters, becoming the fifth pitcher in OU history to reach that figure. Ricketts also joins Lauren Eckermann as the only Sooners to throw no-hitters on consecutive days. Eckermann accomplished the feat on March 3-4, 2007 against Temple and Wichita State, respectively.
CHAMBERLAIN DOMINATES ON OPENING WEEKEND
Putting sophomore slugger Lauren Chamberlain into the leadoff position paid immediate dividends for the Sooner offense.
At the Kajikawa Classic, Chamberlain was 7-11 (.636) with 12 runs, 4 home runs, 12 RBI, 6 walks and 3 hit by pitch. She had a .800 on-base percentage and 1.727 slugging percentage.
Chamberlain reached base in her first 10 plate appearances, going 5-5 with four walks and a hit by pitch before striking out in her third plate appearance against Oregon. Of her five hits, four were home runs.
1. Stanford: HBP, HR, IBB, 1B
2. Oregon State: HR, BB, BB, HR
3. Oregon: BB, HR, KS, 2B
4. New Mexico: HBP, 1B, F7, BB
5. Northwestern: BB, HBP, 1B, F8, ROE
Between hits, walks, hit by pitches and a reach on error, Chamberlain reached safely in 18 of her first 21 plate appearances to start the season.
SOONERS OPEN WITH SWEEP AT KAJIKAWA
Oklahoma opened the 2013 season with a perfect 5-0 mark at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. It's the second year in a row, and 10th time overall, that the Sooners have started 5-0 under Patty Gasso.
The Sooners defeated No. 21 Stanford, 6-0, behind a no-hitter from Keilani Ricketts and back-to-back-to-back home runs in the first inning from Jessica Shults, Ricketts and Shelby Pendley.
Lauren Chamberlain provided the punch in a 14-2, five inning win over Oregon State. She hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs. OU scored 11 runs in the fourth inning.
Ricketts came back and fired another no-hitter to propel OU past No. 5 Oregon, 12-0, in five innings. The Sooners then run-ruled New Mexico, 11-1, in five innings before besting Northwestern, 7-4, behind two home runs from Georgia Casey.
SAME OLD SHULTS
Jessica Shults' first at-bat of the 2013 season resulted in a three-run home run against Stanford. That's nothing new for the senior, though. She has led off three of her four seasons as a Sooner with a home run:
2/13/2010 Florida Atlantic Grand Slam
2/10/2011 Cal State Bakersfield Strikeout Looking
2/10/2012 Cal State Bakersfield 3-Run Home Run
2/08/2013 Oregon 3-Run Home Run
HOME RUN BARRAGE
Shults' three-run blast against against Stanford set the tone for the Oklahoma offense as she was followed by a solo shot by senior Keilani Ricketts and another solo bomb by Shelby Pendley for back-to-back-to-back home runs in the season's first inning.
On the weekend, the Sooners hit at least two home runs in every contest and finished with 13 in five games, an average of 2.6 per game. As a contrast, OU's five openings opponents had 14 total hits.
SUCCESS WITH THE BASES LOADED
In their opening weekend, the Sooners loaded the bases 21 times and scored 18 runs in those situation. The feat is even more remarkable as the Sooners only accumulated four hits to score the runs.
Oklahoma scored 10 times without putting the ball in play as it drew nine bases-loaded walks and one hit by pitch. For good measure, OU also had a grand slam, a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly.
SOONERS ADD TRANSFER PENDLEY
Shelby Pendley, an infielder who spent her freshman season at the University of Arizona, has transferred to the Oklahoma softball program.
An All-Pac-12 First Team honoree, Pendley started all 57 games at shortstop and led the Wildcats in slugging percentage (.703) and home runs (19). She also finished second on the squad with a .331 batting average, 55 runs batted in, 121 total bases and 39 runs scored.
Her home run total put her 13th nationally and two off the Arizona freshman record. She joins an Oklahoma lineup that ranked second in the country with 1.59 home runs per game and set school and conference records with 102 homers on the year. She also ranked 30th in the nation with 55 RBI, hit seven doubles and reached base at a .413 clip.
With the addition of Shelby Pendley, the potent Sooners' lineup becomes even more powerful.
As was noted by ESPN's Graham Hays, the combination of Lauren Chamberlain (30 home runs in 2012), Jessica Shults (20), Keilani Ricketts (17), Georgia Casey (10) and Pendley (19 at Arizona) combined to hit 96 home runs a year ago.
That figure for those five alone was higher than 281 of the other 282 teams in Division I College Softball a year ago.
GASSO INDUCTED INTO NFCA HALL OF FAME
Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso added another honor to an already impressive career in November when she was one of three members inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame at the 2012 NFCA Convention in Orlando, Fla.
Gasso joined North Carolina's Donna Papa and former Palomar head coach Mark Eldridge as members of the 2012 class.