Surprises for Softball's Defending National Champions

Oklahoma College Softball

Surprises for Softball's Defending National Champions

It didn't take long for some surprises in the first weekend of Division I college softball 2014. Just ask the defending champion University of Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners, who were 57-4 last year in winning their second NCAA national title, lost half of their 2013 total over the February 7-9 weekend, losing to the University of Kentucky (4-0), 5-4 in 10 innings, and 3-1 to Cal State Fullerton (2-0) in the Easton Tournament in Fullerton, California on Friday.

The loss to Kentucky snapped Oklahoma's 13-game winning streak dating back to last season, which was tied for 10th longest in school history. In addition, OU's season-opening win streak ended at four while its eight-game win streak against ranked opponents also came to a close. The extra inning loss was just the second time OU played extra innings in its season opener. The other time was Feb. 17, 1998 when OU beat Texas State, 3-0 in eight innings.

OU juniors Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley, two of the 14 players returning from last year out of 21, provided early offensive highlights. Pendley, who played her freshman season at Arizona, smashed an opposite field two-run homer in the first with Chamberlain on base. It was the 42nd homer of her career and her 23rd in a Sooner uniform. After Kentucky cut the OU lead in half with a homer by Maisie Steel, Chamberlain hit a solo homer to lead off the third inning to tie the school and Big 12 record for homers. The blast was the 61st of her career, tying former Sooner catcher Jessica Shults for the all-time rank. Chamberlain needs 30 homers in the next two years to break the NCAA career homer record of 90 held by former UCLA catcher Stacey Nuveman, now the assistant coach at San Diego State University.

In the first game, OU held a 4-2 lead going into the seventh inning, but couldn't keep it with Georgia Casey, in relief of starter Kelsey Stevens, taking the loss for the Sooners. She fanned three in 3.1 innings, but allowed two runs, one of which was earned. In the second game, OU had
only three hits and one run, which came on Casey's second homer of the season in the first inning.

After losing twice, OU bounced back on Saturday, run-ruling Santa Clara, 10-1, in three innings with Casey hurling a one-hitter and getting three hits to drive in four runs for OU's first win of the season in a performance that was more of what OU fans have come to expect from the Sooners in the past two seasons. OU then run-ruled Loyola Marymount, 11-1, in five innings to even its record at 2-2. OU fans are hoping there aren't any more surprises, with a Sunday morning game at Pittsburgh concluding OU's first tournament of the season. OU got only one hit in its first-ever meeting against the Panthers but it was a two-run homer by sophomore Leslie Miller in the fourth inning in a 2-1 win for the Sooners' third consecutive win to conclude their first weekend of play. Stevens fanned ten batters and allowed four hits in getting the win.