The stakes may be arguably higher in this weekend's baseball Bedlam series, but the OU Softball team has their sight set on a Big 12 Championship and their in-state rival standing in their way.
Patty Gasso's squad enters the weekend once again as the consensus No. 1 team in the country with a ridiculous 44-4 overall record on the season. To be perfectly honest, we ran out of ways to describe just how dominant this team has been about two months ago. Whether it's their record setting performances at the plate or in the circle, this Sooners team entered the season on a mission after falling in the deciding game of last year's Women's College World Series and have done nothing to deviate from their predetermined path.
Oklahoma needs to win of the the three games this weekend to claim a back-to-back Big 12 Conference title which would be their 10th overall.
Not as though they needed it, but Oklahoma also enters the weekend with a bit of additional motivation. Which is a reference to their unexpected split of a two game series with Kansas last weekend and two games in which their offense was basically nonexistent.
The OU bats will look to get back on track against an Oklahoma State squad coming off easily their biggest series win of the season when they won two out of three against a No. 6 ranked Texas team. The Cowgirls will be relying heavily on senior starter Kat Espinosa who has made 36 starts for them this season with a 18-16 overall record and 205 strikeouts in 229 innings. Meanwhile, the Sooners will counter with two of their three (yeah, you read that right) finalists for national player of the year in seniors Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne.
Ricketts holds a 25-1 record on the year with 264 strikeouts in 172 innings pitched as well as a 1.14 earned run average (No. 5 nationally). And oh by the way, she is also batting .389 on the season with 11 home runs and a strong favorite to in her second consecutive national player of the year honor. As impressive as all of those numbers are, Gascoigne has been nearly Ricketts' equal in the circle this year. The fellow southpaw has a 16-3 record of her own with 181 strikeouts to just 25 walks and a 0.95 earned run average (No. 2 nationally).
Oklahoma will be looking to avoid their somewhat customary slow start and put runs on the board quickly as their already strong chances of taking the series will be significantly increased if they can get to Espinosa early on. With a lineup that can literally produce runs from one thru nine and an offense that ranks No. 1 in the country at 7.63 runs per game, it should be a task they are able to manage.
The schedule makers got a little creative with this one as all three games will be played in different locations. Friday night's game, which is technically a makeup game from earlier in the year, will be played in Oklahoma City (6:00 pm CST first pitch) while Saturday will be in Norman (12:00 pm CST first pitch) and the series finale will take place in Stillwater (1:00 pm CST first pitch). Oklahoma's four seniors Ricketts, Gascoigne, Jessica Shults, and Brianna Turang will be honored following the conclusion of the game.