Tahlequah Daily Press

April 19, 2013

OU softball preps for Texas as records continue to fall


— NORMAN — The records have fallen, and so has anyone else who has stood in the way of Oklahoma this year.

The top-ranked Sooners are off to the best start in program history at 37-2 and have shattered a number of individual records along the way to become the nation’s unanimous No. 1, and Oklahoma is also off to one of its best starts ever in conference play at 6-0.

The team’s dominance this year has even led coach Patty Gasso to compare this year’s team favorably to the 2000 squad that went on to win the program’s only national championship.

“They’re very different teams, but they’re similar too,” she said. “That championship team, they were very confident and not afraid of anyone. I see that in this team too. There’s a different twist in the lineups though, and this team has more power than any other.”

The 2013 squad is already off to a better start than that team, which began the season 25-2 before picking up its third loss. But none of that will matter when Oklahoma meets No. 6 Texas at 4:30 p.m. today in Austin for a three-game series that will determine which team controls its own conference destiny.

And it could determine much more than that. The Sooners lead the country in wins against top-25 teams with 14 and have a .875 winning percentage in 16 games against ranked teams. But they haven’t faced anyone as tough as Texas (38-4, 8-0), which has won 15 in a row with its last loss coming on March 14 against No. 2 Arizona State.

Because every other team in the Big 12 has at least five losses, the rivalry series will give one team a stranglehold on the conference title while the other will be left hoping for some help down the stretch.

But there’s more on the line for OU, the unquestioned favorite to win the national championship. After coming just one game short a year ago, the Sooners have emerged this season as the most dominant team in college softball, and they have the attitude and confidence to back that up. That magnifies the matchup this weekend as OU faces its toughest opponent of the season.

In what has become the dominant characteristic of this team, the Sooners are undaunted by the pressure.

“We’ve had a lot of close games this year, and we’ve learned from the losses and the close ones,” said senior pitcher Keilani Ricketts, who will likely square off against Texas’ Blaire Luna on Friday in a matchup of two of the best pitchers in the country. “We’ve grown stronger through the year and we haven’t peaked yet, which is exciting for us.”

At least in Gasso’s eyes, the reason for that growth dates back that final pitch against Alabama a year ago, when the Sooners lost the lead and fell in the title game.

“The experience this team had last season has changed their world,” she said. “They don’t panic. There’s no sense of that. They bow up and know they can beat anybody.”