Tahlequah Daily Press

May 10, 2014

Sooners going for outright softball crown against Bedlam rival

By CORBIN HOSLER
CNHI

— The Sooners are already Big 12 champions for the third straight year. Now they’ll try to guarantee they won’t have to share that title.

Two regular season games remain for No. 10 OU, with a win in either guaranteeing them sole possession of the title. With that and postseason seeding on the line, the Sooners certainly don’t lack for motivation. But they may have it anyway, considering the final two games — starting with a 1 p.m. contest today — come against Bedlam rival Oklahoma State.

The Sooners (43-10, 14-2) travel to Stillwater for the opening game before the Cowgirls (26-26, 5-11) come to Norman to round out the series with a 2 p.m. game on Sunday at Marita Hynes Field. And the Sooners won’t be satisfied with anything less than a pair of wins and sole ownership of the title.

“This team doesn’t want to share,” coach Patty Gasso said after the Sooners clinched a share of the championship with a 13-0 victory over Texas Tech on Sunday, making OU the first team in conference history to claim that three years in a row. “There’s no celebrating in that locker room, because this team doesn’t want to share. There’s no celebration going on until we get one more.”

With OSU, the Sooners will have the chance against an opponent they narrowly defeated 2-0 a month ago. In that contest, played in Norman, OU got RBIs from Erin Miller and Shelby Pendley but needed a dominant performance from pitcher Kelsey Stevens to guarantee the win. It was the start of a month-long streak of excellence for Stevens, who struck out eight in the complete game.

As that game marked the beginning of Stevens’ ascension to an elite tier of pitchers, this weekend’s series marks OU’s return to college softball’s top 10. The Sooners moved to No. 10 this week for the first time since Feb. 16, when the defending national champions were ranked No. 7.

The pair of games with OSU is important for more than just sole ownership of the conference title. The Sooners are No. 8 in the latest edition of the RPI used to determine postseason placement. It’s an especially important spot considering the top eight teams after the regional round are awarded super regionals, which would give the Sooners the opportunity to advance to the Women’s College World Series without leaving the state of Oklahoma, mirroring the route they took to the national championship last season.

First, the Sooners must take care of business against OSU, a team that has struggled in Big 12 play. The Cowgirls have lost eight of their last 10 games and have scored just seven runs in the eight losses.