Tahlequah Daily Press

May 2, 2014

Sooners in position for another Big 12 crown


— Oklahoma is three wins away from a Big 12 title.

The 12th-ranked Sooners (40-10, 11-2) have a two-game lead over both Baylor and Texas and own the tiebreaker over both. With five conference games left on the schedule for OU, this weekend’s home series against Texas Tech offers the Sooners the opportunity to secure the championship on Sunday.

Winning the title for the third year in a row is a lofty goal, but it’s one that the Sooners, who have a pair of Bedlam games against Oklahoma State left next week, have in their reach after taking two of three games from both Baylor and Texas earlier this season. While the Sooners are a heavy favorite over Texas Tech (35-16, 8-7) on paper, it’s also not something coach Patty Gasso’s squad is taking for granted.

“We know we’re one of the hottest teams in the country,” Gasso said last week after the Sooners completed a three-game sweep over UAB before also defeating Arkansas on Wednesday to win 21 of their last 23 games. “But we still need to get better. We have to make sure you combine working on what you need to work on while also catching your breath and being ready to go.”

It’s a balance that Wednesday’s 10-2, run-rule victory over the Razorbacks certainly helped with. The Sooners rested Monday before the trip and are heading into tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game healthier than they’ve been in two months.

The biggest reason for that is the addition of Lauren Chamberlain, who made her return against UAB after missing nearly two months with a back injury. The All-American slugger has quickly returned to form since her return, going 3 for 8 with seven walks.

“Physically, I felt good,” she said after drawing three walks in OU’s 6-4 win over UAB on Sunday. “I feel like I’m seeing the ball pretty well.”

And the numbers back up Gasso’s claim that the Sooners are streaking. Five players are batting better than .375 in the last 10 games, with Destinee Martinez leading the way with a .619 average in her last seven appearances.

With Chamberlain’s return, Gasso has been able to move Martinez back to the bottom of the lineup, a spot the longtime coach prefers to place Martinez so the slap hitter with a .363 on-base percentage and 12 stolen bases on the season can turn the lineup back over to leadoff Lauren Chamberlain.

In Texas Tech, OU will face a squad that has shown it can compete with the top of the Big 12. The Red Raiders are fourth in the standings and own a win over Texas earlier in the season. Texas Tech, which has won six of its last seven games, is led in the circle by Gretchen Aucoin, who is 14-9 this season with a 1.99 ERA.