OU Sooners Softball peaking at the right time

OU Sooners Softball peaking at the right time

NORMAN, OKLA – If a team peaks, coaches certainly would like it to happen during the postseason.

OU (50-8) is one of the teams peaking in the postseason and has been impressive in winning NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals, outscoring the opposition 45-5, behind an outstanding offense and the spectacular pitching of left-hander Keilani Ricketts.

In five games, the Sooners hit .371 (52-for-140), with 10 homers among their 52 hits. The 10 homers increased the Sooners’ overall total to 95, which ties New Mexico for the lead among NCCA Division One teams. And 17 of OU’s hits were for extra bases including six doubles and one triple to go along with the 10 homers.

Some Sooner fans consider this Patty Gasso’s best team during her years at OU, but it remains to be seen how good this OU team is. It certainly is one of Gasso’s best and could become the best if the Sooners capture the school’s second NCAA softball title. The first came in 2000.

Gasso is more than pleased with her team’s performance in the postseason so far. “I will give it all to them, I give it all to them,” said Gasso. ”I just need to make sure everything is in order. I might be the orchestrator and they play the instruments and make the music. It’s what they do, and it’s wonderful music. My job is not to mess it up and just make sure that I have everybody set and ready to play and keeping spirits up and all of that. The easiest coaching job is when your team runs itself.”

It doesn’t get any better for a coach, and OU has more than helped itself by getting out in front of the opposition early. OU is 41-1 when scoring first and 23-2 when scoring in the first inning. In both games against Arizona, OU scored first and each time in the first inning, scoring two runs in the first game and five runs in the second game in a rematch of last year’s Super Regional in Tempe.

Ricketts, who is one of three finalists for the College Player of the Year and was awarded College Sports Madness Pitcher of the Year, has been outstanding, in the circle and at-bat. She hurled all five wins, pitching 31 innings while allowing only15 hits. She walked only five batters and fanned 49, including 13 against AU in the second game. Besides her mound performance, Ricketts, the clean-up hitter in the potent OU offense, batted .467, driving in eight runs and totaling 15 bases.

AU catcher Lini Koria had this to say after losing to Ricketts on Saturday in the Super Regional final. “Ricketts is an amazing pitcher overall. She worked us in a lot more today that yesterday. We did our homework on her yesterday and were expecting her to go a little bit away, but she did a really good job adjusting and got ahead of us with her off speed. We could have done a better job being disciplined, but I tip my hat to her because she went after everybody and she didn’t quit.”

Ricketts is the clean-up hitter in the OU lineup with Laura Chamberlain No. 3 and Jessica Shults batting No. 5. The OU 3-4-5 hitters present problems for any pitcher. Kenzie Fowler was asked what she thought of the OU 3-4-5 hitters.

“The 3-4-5 hitters for Oklahoma are as tough as it gets when it comes to power,” said AU second game loser Kenzie Fowler. ”When you are trying to change things up, they made good adjustments. If I miss a spot, they make you pay. I tip my hat, they do a good job and they are disciplined. They waited for a good pitch and they hit it hard.”

In the past five games, the three have batted .444, smashed seven homers and driven in 25 runs. Rickett’s battery mate, Jessica Shults, is batting .643, but that isn’t the highest average on the team. Slapper and left fielder Brianna Turang led the Sooners with a .750 batting average (9-for-12) in the five games.

OU may have the formula to win its second national title, but it knows winning a second national title won’t be easy, especially with such outstanding teams as defending champ Arizona State, ahead of them. But the Sooners, who have won eight games in a row and 12 of their past 14 games, are confident, but not over confident.

“It’s a good feeling, especially as a coach to just watch them set themselves up” said Gasso, talking about her team’s confidence. ”You don’t have to say much, there’s no big rally cries. You just remind them of a few things. They’re so on the same page and it’s so comfortable to be around. There’s no drama, there are no issues. They get it, all of them, freshman, seniors, they get it all. They all understand their role and they take their role very seriously. Whether it’s a pinch runner, pinch hitter, whatever you call me I will be there to help. They get it. There’s no animosity, no pouting, none of that stuff going on. That’s been happening all season so it’s created this respect for each other. I know it’s said over and over, but there’s really something to say about a team that loves to be around each other all the time. They do not want the season to end. They do not want the season to end.”

The season of course will end and OU hopes it will be the team winning the game that brings another national title.  The Sooners have won their last eight games in a row and 12 of their past 14 games.