After winning their respective games Thursday night, conference foes and longtime rivals Oklahoma and Texas are set to square off Friday for a Red River edition of the Women's College World Series.
The Sooners took two of three from the Longhorns, in Austin, during the regular season. And they did so with virtually zero production from their top four hitters. Lauren Chamberlain, Shelby Pendley, Keilani Ricketts, and Jessica Shults combined to go 3-for-30 over the three games with both Chamberlain and Ricketts failing to record a single hit. Needless to say that's not going to happen very often. And yet even with their lack of production, Oklahoma still managed to win two of the three games.
The reason (or reasons as it were) they were able to win that series was because of the production from their 7-8-9 hitters. Destinee Martinez, Callie Parsons, and Brianna Turang were the difference in the three games and have played a crucial role for this offense all year long. It's why we told you in our preview just how ridiculous this lineup is and it's because they go a legit nine deep.
While no batting lineup can compare to that of Oklahoma, Texas has an impressive lineup in their own right. Conveniently, they have set their batting order up similar to that of the Sooners with some power and one of the country's top on-base percentages at the top in Taylor Hoagland. Again like Oklahoma, they have their slappers toward the bottom of their lineup to help jump start their offense when the batting order turns over.
But this team will only go as far as their senior ace, Blair Luna, will take them. She started all three games against Oklahoma during the regular season and did not have a great deal of success. Also playing in Oklahoma's favor here is the fact the was forced to throw 120 plus pitches last night in Texas' win over Arizona State.
In fact, the Texas head coach pulled Luna in the seventh for what she said was an "opportunity to give ASU a different look" but what she was really doing was trying to spare Luna's arm of that last inning. Pitch counts don't mean nearly as much in the sport of softball as they do baseball, but Luna has been Texas' workhorse all year long and by this point it's been a long year. It's hard to imagine Luna being 100% fresh for tonight's start and Oklahoma patience will be key for several reasons.
(1) The more pitches Luna throws the better off Oklahoma will be.
(2) Luna's go-to pitch is her rise ball, which is never a strike and which batters rarely catch up to in time. So if they can lay off that pitch, it helps with #1 and eliminates a crucial part of her arsenal.
(3) Luna is prone to walking batters and there is no better lineup on the planet that exploits free passes better than this Oklahoma team.
Obviously these two teams know each other, probably better than any two teams still remaining in the field, so there won't be many surprises tonight. It's going to come down to which pitcher, Ricketts or Luna, has the better stuff.
So are you up for betting against the back-to-back National Player of the Year and one of the most dominant players in the history of the sport?
Yeah, me neither.
First pitch is tentatively scheduled for 8:30 p.m. (CST) and the game can be seen on ESPN.