By CORBIN HOSLER
After returning seven starters and three All-Americans, the Sooners’ lineup was already stacked. But with the addition of Shelby Pendley, an all-Pac-12 first teamer at Arizona last season, Oklahoma is even more formidable than before.
And for Pendley, the transition to Oklahoma has been good, if not seamless. The sophomore has dealt with some “homesickness,” as coach Patty Gasso described it, but she’s hungry to learn and has caught on quickly, the longtime coach said.
“She is a tremendous athlete,” Gasso said. “We’re still teaching her our system but she’s caught on real quick.”
It’s evident that Pendley is quickly adjusting to her new home at Oklahoma, a place she described as her second college choice before ultimately deciding to go to Arizona, where she starred in her freshman season.
But after deciding that wasn’t the right fit, she returned to Oklahoma, where the Sooners knocked her former team out of the postseason a year ago. The transition was made easier by the fact that Pendley’s aunt and uncle live in Moore and her new teammates have been very welcoming.
Asked what the hardest part of the move has been, Pendley was adamant.
“Nothing,” she said. “The girls have all been accepting, and the atmosphere is great here. I’m ready to put it all behind me and start fresh here.”
Sooners opening on road
While Oklahoma was one of the best teams at home a year ago, it will be a while before the Sooners return to Marita Hynes Field this season.
Oklahoma plays its first 15 games on the road, with five coming in Phoenix, and the next 10 coming in California. The Sooners finally return home to kick off the season with a March 1 game against Nebraska.
With a shortened Big 12 schedule this year due to the departure of Missouri and Texas A&M, the Sooners have just 17 regular-season games at home. They do, however, have three games in Oklahoma City.
Shults savoring senior season
Senior catcher and All-American Jessica Shults has already had a great career at Oklahoma. And while the Valencia, Calif. native has another year to add to an already-impressive list of achievements, she was reflective on Wednesday of what she’s found in Oklahoma.
“Every game I’m going to try to take everything in because it’s my senior season,” she said. “I’m just going to do everything I can do to lead my team.”
Freshman class making an impact
One of the major storylines this season will be how much of an impact a heralded freshman class will have on an otherwise experienced Sooners’ squad.
Gasso brought in seven freshmen in this year’s recruiting class, and all seven come from Oklahoma. Their impact on the practice field has already been felt, with position battles intense up and down the lineup.
“When I split this team up into two squads to scrimmage, it’s like having two top-10 teams play against each other,” she said. “That’s a sign of how much depth I have on the team this year. Every position is competitive.”