#7 Oklahoma Softball 2016 Preview

Oklahoma Sooners
Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #1 Big 12
 Oklahoma Logo
Oklahoma put together another excellent season in 2015, winning 49 games overall. They continued to stay atop the Big 12 Conference and gave Alabama all they wanted in the Tuscaloosa Super Regional. The Sooners are going to be a little bit younger than normal in 2016, as they will have eight newcomers, but they do return six position players and two pitchers to balance everything out and set up Oklahoma to be a strong top ten caliber team in 2016.
2015: 49-9, 14-2
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Patty Gasso
Field Players:
With the loss of Shelby Pendley and Lauren Chamberlain to graduation and the loss of 47 homeruns and 130 runs batted in, the Sooners will probably go through some growing pains at times offensively at the start of the season. Senior outfielder Erin Miller will be expected to lead the way in 2016 and be able to match or surpass her .409 batting average, eight homeruns and 52 runs batted in. Senior outfielder Kady Self brings plenty of firepower to the table at the plate after hitting .378 with ten homeruns and 45 runs batted in last season.
Sophomore Paige Parker returns as the number one starter in 2016. Parker was 28-7 with a 1.65 earned run average as a freshman in 2015. The pinpoint control of Parker is a huge strength of hers as she only walked 57 batters, while striking out 217. Offensively, Parker also help herself out a lot. She hit .394, while hitting nine homeruns and driving in 43 runs last season. Look for Kelsey Stevens to rack up about 15 or so starts as the number two starting pitcher after winning nine games last season.
Who to Watch:
Sophomore outfielder Nicole Pendley had a strong freshman season in 2015. Pendley hit .364 with seven homeruns, 35 runs batted in and made the All-Big 12 Freshman team. Pendley’s ability to slap hit, lay down bunts and drive the ball out of the ballpark make her a very difficult challenge for opposing teams to deal with. Sophomore outfielder Kelsey Arnold will be looking to generate a little more power and get on base more in 2016 to complement her ability to hit for a high average. If Arnold can get on base a little bit more, it should allow her to get her stolen base total into double figures.
Final Projection:
A doubleheader at the Sportco Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas against Minnesota and Washington on opening day will be the perfect early season test for the Sooners. The rest of the non-conference schedule is highlighted by games against Alabama, Michigan, UCLA, Utah, Fresno State and Tennessee. In conference play, a trip to Waco to battle Baylor should decide the Big 12 regular season champion. If the everyday lineup for Oklahoma can come together quickly and pick up some, if not all, of the lost offensive production, then the Sooners will be right there in the Women’s College World Series conversation. Now, if the offense does not come together, then the door could crack open for Baylor to walk through and claim the Big 12 title. Overall, look for this Oklahoma team to have another strong season and potentially win 50 plus games.
Projected Postseason:  NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Two with 154
Hits: Erin Miller, OF, 63
Home Runs: Kady Self, OF, 10
RBIs: Erin Miller, OF, 52
Runs: Erin Miller, OF, 56
Stolen Bases: Erin Miller, OF, 9
Wins: Paige Parker, P, 28
Innings Pitched: Paige Parker, P, 217.0
Strikeouts: Paige Parker, P, 224
Saves: Paige Parker, P, 3
Madness 2016 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#4 Sydney Romero
#5 Marshaylee Knighten
#9 Brittany Finney
#43 Fale Aviu
#51 Kylie Lundberg
Madness 2016 Draft Rankings:
#18 Erin Miller