The Big 12 softball race is just a couple of weeks old, but already Oklahoma and Texas have established themselves as the teams to beat. Both the Sooners and Longhorns are undefeated in league play and between them have won 69 games and lost only six overall. The two schools are both ranked in the top 10 nationally, with Oklahoma holding down the nation’s top spot, with just two losses in 36 games.
The Sooners (34-2, 3-0) are No. 1 in the country, but with five wins and no defeats, Texas (35-4) is atop the Big 12 standings in the early going of the conference season. Six of the seven Big 12 schools that participate in softball have winning records at the mid-point of the season. Only Iowa State, with a record of 17-19 entering this week, has a losing record. The other six teams all have at least 20 wins with 15 games remaining for most of the teams.
The Sooners and Longhorns are headed toward a showdown in another week. The two teams will meet in a three-game weekend series in Austin that will likely decide the Big 12 regular-season champion. OU took two of three from the Longhorns last season in Norman and split two games in 2011 the last time the two teams played in Austin.
Oklahoma and Texas are one-two in pitching in the conference, which is big reason for the overall dominance exhibited by boh teams so far against mostly nonconference opponents. The two schools also are two and three in hitting and fielding in the league – with Texas at No. 2 and Oklahoma right behind – through all games.
Oklahoma senior Keilani Ricketts, last season’s USA Softball Player of the Year, recorded her 116th win as a Sooner pitcher last weekend against Baylor to become the winningest pitcher in OU softball history. Ricketts has a record of 18-1 this season in 24 appearances, with an earned run average of 1.04, third best in the conference.
“She’s one of the most special players that softball will see for a long, long time.,” said OU coach Patty Gasso.
Ricketts is backed up by another outstanding Sooner pitcher in Michell Gascoigne, who owns the league’s best ERA (0.86) and is 14-1 in 20 appearances Collectively, the OU pitching staff has an ERA of under one run a game, which makes it extremely hard for any team to beat the Sooners.
The Longhorns have had superb pitching, as well. Going into Sunday’s game with nonconference foe Western Kentucky, Texas pitchers had not given up a hit in 18 and one-third innings. That streak ended in the third inning on Sunday, but the Lady Longhorns extended their streak of not yielding an earned run in 25 and one-third innings, since March 29 at Kansas.
Student athletes from Iowa State and Kansas were named Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, for the period April 4-7. The Player of the Week, Sarah Hawryluk, a junior outfielder for Iowa State, had six hits in 10 plate appearances and scored four times while driving in two last weekend as the Cyclones swept three games from Oklahoma State. That was the first time Iowa State had swept a series from a Big 12 opponent in three seasons.
Kansas freshman right-handed pitcher Kelsey Kessler had quite a weekend. She got her first career save in game one of the Jayhawks’ series against Texas Tech last weekend . She recorded a complete game shutout in the second game of the series and then tossed a no-hitter in the series finale. Kessler had a hand in all three Kansas wins over the weekend, earning her conference honors as Pitcher of the Week.
It was the first weekly honor by either an Iowa State or Kansas player all season.
In this weekend’s games Iowa State (17-19, 3-3) is at Texas, Oklahoma State (24-17, 2-4) at Baylor (29-10, 3-5) and Texas Tech (27-17, 1-5) hosts Oklahoma.
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