Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WCWS Team Profile: Oklahoma Sooners

How they got here: The Sooners finished with a 47-4 regular-season record; won the Big 12 regular season title; made quick work of their hosted regional, finishing 3-0; made #16 Texas A&M look like a Division 2 team in Supers, run-ruling them 8-0 in five innings twice to win the series 2-0.

Starting Nine: Oklahoma’s line up consists of a combination of a lot of big power bats and extremely consistent hitters from 1-9.

Lauren Chamberlain, 1B (A top-three National Player of the Year finalist; arguably one of the best active overall hitters; certainly one of the greatest all-time power hitters, as only a sophomore; an extremely potent hitter; also extremely patient and works the strike zone well.)
Georgia Casey, 2B (A great table-setter between Chamberlain and the other power hitters; a doubles machine; also very good at laying down the sacrifice to move runners up; power numbers slightly down from last season, but at-bats and overall hits up.)
Shelby Pendley, 3B (A preseason transfer from Arizona, Pendley immediately made a big impact; Big 12 Player of the Year; a great power hitter; ranked in the conference top 10 in virtually every offensive category, including leading in RBI and second in home runs, slugging %, and total bases; besides hitting the ball with power, can also hit for average to get on base.)
Keilani Ricketts, P/DP (National Player of the Year two years running; when she’s not pitching, Ricketts also gets it done with her bat; lots of power, but can also pound an RBI base hit when needed; very clutch, and prone to come up huge just when the Sooners need her.)
Brittany Williams, DP (Solid hitter; really hitting her stride towards the last part of the season and postseason; had a great regional; registered a perfect fielding percentage in forty-two games in the outfield; gets on base consistently.)
Jessica Shults, C (Stellar defensively; offensive numbers way down from previous seasons; hit under .300 for the first time in her career; still has home run power, but hit far fewer than ever before (7 this year in comparison to 15, 19, and 20 in years prior); perhaps most important is her senior leadership and "pumped up" energy and personality.)
Destinee Martinez, CF (Falls under the "consistent" category more than "power", to the tune of forty-seven hits and exactly six of them were for extra bases and no home runs; carried a .356 batting average, good for fifth-best on the squad; rather speedy up the base paths.)
Callie Parsons, RF (Sophomore outfielder that joined the every day starting lineup fairly recently; saw sixty-seven official at-bats on the year, and recorded a hit in just under a third of them; also worked thirteen walks; low power numbers, even given the limited opportunities, but did record fourteen RBI.)
Brianna Turang, LF (Started all but one of the games she played, all in the outfield; recorded the highest batting average on the team, not a simple feat; recorded a .431 slugging percentage despite just three extra-base hits (all doubles); base-stealing numbers in single digits for the first time in her career; named 2013 All-Big 12 First Team & drafted by the NPF's Akron Racers.)

What I see: You’d be hard-pressed to find someone to disagree that OU is not the favorite coming into OKC. They’re practically in their own backyard, which may only make their job easier. As many have said, they have all the weapons in place; the only thing left to do is get the job done. Powerful pitching from two seniors and a masterful offense that can kill you with just one good inning are the two most dangerous parts of the Sooner squad.

X-Factor: Michelle Gascoigne. The #2 pitcher after Ricketts is also a senior, and has been playing in her counterpart’s shadow for pretty much her whole career. But Gascoigne has enjoyed her role, and thrived in it, even pitching so well as to make herself a top-ten finalist for National Player of the Year. Pitching depth is a department several teams struggle with in the postseason, a lot of times relying on just one pitcher to carry them through, but Gascoigne’s dominance gives the Sooners the luxury of knowing that at the very hint of Ricketts getting into trouble in the circle, all they have to do is bring in Gascoigne and she can masterfully shut down any rally.

Who’s up first: The Sooners take on Michigan Thursday evening. The two teams did not face each other during the regular season.

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