Defending National Champs off to rocky start

Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

After losing just 4 games last season, Sooners have dropped three games this season.

When you win a national title, it brings expectations to your program of the highest points. The Oklahoma Sooners softball team started out pre-season No. 2 behind national runner-up, Tennessee Volunteers.

However, those expectations have not been met yet. After you lose such a talented group of seniors that led you to the promise land, you should expect some regression, despite the expectations. Oklahoma lost two great pitchers who went on to pitch professionally, and a couple of really great positional players.

The opening season loss to then 12th ranked Kentucky Wildcats 5-4 in 10 innings. It has set a little precedent for the Sooners. While losing to a quality Southeastern Conference like Kentucky isn't exactly a horrible loss, later that evening, Oklahoma also fell to Cal. St. Fullerton Titans 3-1.

All of a sudden, the defending champs are reeling at 0-2.

They regrouped and spanked the next four opponents. However, they were destroyed by the Arizona St. Sun Devils on Friday 7-0.

One thing Oklahoma has really struggled with is manufacturing runs this season. Despite scoring double-digits three times in wins this season, in their three losses they have a combined five runs, while allowing 15 runs.

Strikes outs are a horrible black eye for the Sooners as well. They have struck out 28 times in their three losses. Part of that is not having patience at the plate and facing really good pitching. Arizona State's Dallas Escobedo struck 12 in the Sun Devil's win.

There's a lot to be happy about with Oklahoma though. Shelby Pendley, the returning Big 12 Player of the year, she's batting .400 on the season heading into the Littlewood Classic. Also, the returning home run leader in the nation last season, has only one home run through the first eight games of the season. Pitchers seem to be more willing to walk her than to give her pitches to punch over the fence.

The season isn't over, nor is any shot at making the Women's College World Series. So, patience with a young team that sports out just three seniors on the roster. This might not be head coach Patty Gasso's toughest challenge, but it will definitely be a work in progress heading into Big 12 play.

Oklahoma still has games against Northwestern Wildacats, UCLA Bruins, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Louisiana Ragin Cajuns, and LSU Tigers left on the non-conference schedule. So, there might be more L's on the schedule, but there will be more experience gained and that will be just huge come conference time.

Oklahoma takes on #3 Washington Huskies at 12:15 CST in the Littlwood Classic in Phoenix, Ariz. Then approximately 30 minutes later, they'll take on the Michigan St. Spartans to end the tournament.

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