Sooners to play three-game series against Iowa State
After nearly three weeks away from home, the No. 1 OU softball team returns home this weekend for a three-game series against Iowa State beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Marita Hynes Field.
The Sooners (40-3, 8-1 Big 12) have traveled to a trio of Texas towns since their last home game on April 7. Coach Patty Gasso and her players were clear at Thursday’s practice that they are looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd.
“We’re tired of being in those tough environments and ready to get a little love,” Gasso said.
Oklahoma enters the weekend as the top-ranked team in the nation and the Big 12 conference leader. The team controls its own destiny for the Big 12 title following a series win over No. 7 Texas last weekend. Earning two victories over the rivaled Longhorns has given OU confidence heading into the second half of the conference schedule, Gasso said.
Hosting Iowa State (19-26, 4-8 Big 12) is not on the same level of difficulty as traveling to Austin, but the team has to be careful to avoid a letdown against the next-to-last team in the conference.
Iowa State has struggled throughout much of the season, and the fight hasn’t gotten any easier for the squad in conference play. The Cyclones are losers of six of their last seven games.
Iowa State’s woes have stemmed from a lack of pitching. Senior Tori Torrescano has received the bulk of the starts in the circle but carries an unimpressive 5.02 ERA. As a team, the Cyclones have an ERA of 10.25 in conference contests.
The Sooner lineup leads the Big 12 in batting average and home runs in conference games. The depth of the lineup shined through in the Texas series, and the OU bats will look to be aggressive this weekend against Iowa State. Gasso stressed the importance of setting the tone early.
Much of the hype that surrounds the Oklahoma lineup is concentrated on the top of the order, where power is plentiful. But senior outfielder Brianna Turang and the bottom of the order provide the dynamic that Gasso has looked for.
“The success we had this weekend was large in part to Brianna and the slappers: seven, eight, nine (hitters in the order),” Gasso said. “The confidence they bring to us is like starting the game all over when you get down there.”
Turang is coming off a performance in which she was named Big 12 Player of the Week. It was the first time in her career she received the accolade. The two-sport athlete explained how the lineup has been successful.
“We’ve been able to build off each other,” Turang said. “Throughout our lineup we challenge each other; one gets on, one gets them in, and it’s fun.”
Senior pitcher Keilani Ricketts also earned Big 12 honors for her past week’s performance. Ricketts is in the power part of the lineup, but she talked of the importance the bottom of the order brings.
“Usually you see slappers at the top of the lineup, but we have them at the bottom,” Ricketts said. “They’re able to get on bases, and especially this last weekend, they came through for us.”
The top-ranked Sooners will look for more of the same this weekend against the Cyclones. Following the series opener at 6:30 tonight, OU and Iowa State will play at noon Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s important that we come out and not take one pitch off,” Gasso said. “The first time we decide that we’re that good, or we decide we don’t feel like playing, is when all the work we’ve put in is going to come back and haunt us.”