Softball: Top-ranked Sooners to play in San Diego, players optimistic
The OU softball team travels to San Diego this weekend to play in the Campbell/Cartier Classic.
The nation’s new No. 1 team, according to the ESPN/USA Softball poll, is coming off a five-game stretch in which it outplayed its competition – including two ranked opponents.
Senior pitcher Keilani Ricketts threw a pair of no-hitters last weekend, and she looks to lead her team into another tough slate of competition beginning Friday.
Oklahoma’s lineup, led by sophomore infielder Lauren Chamberlain, is averaging 10 runs per game. The All-American was moved to the first spot in the lineup this season, and she is comfortable with the change.
“With Coach Gasso putting me in that leadoff spot, it allows me to see more pitches and get more at bats throughout the game,” Chamberlain said.
“Having Lauren in the leadoff spot sends a message to the opposing pitcher that she has to be good from the first pitch,” Gasso said. “She sets a tone for us.”
Chamberlain boasts an .800 on-base percentage, but she is only one part of a premier lineup. With power at the top and speed toward the bottom, Gasso knows her squad will be tough to beat.
“It’s a little bit of everything coming at you,” Gasso said.
Ricketts, a main contributor to the lineup, said she is able to relax on the mound knowing that her team is going to score runs for her.
Despite the early success, the Sooners were not perfect during their first five matchups. Limiting strikeouts and playing better defense are both essential for continued success.
“Our defense was not very good at all,” Gasso said. “There were things that we could’ve done a lot better.”
With two games each on Friday and Saturday – followed by one Sunday contest – OU will have the opportunity to correct the errors over the busy weekend.
Saturday will be the biggest test for the Sooners as they will face two top 25 opponents – No. 22 Kentucky at 3:30 p.m. and No. 16 Washington at 5:45 p.m.
Other opponents the Sooners will face at the classic include UC Riverside, San Diego State, and Notre Dame.
Coach Gasso was able to play her freshmen at last week’s Kajikawa Classic thanks to large score differentials, and she looks to do the same this weekend.
“The more I can get them in and give them experience, the better off our future is going to be,” Gasso said.
OU’s strategy has not changed going into this weekend’s Campbell/Cartier Classic. Maintaining focus and building off their previous performance will be a must for the Sooners.
As for what the players expect this weekend: more of the same.
“Keep it rollin’,” Chamberlain said. “We want to come out with the same mindset as we did last weekend. We want to make our statement early.”
Oklahoma will begin the Campbell/Cartier Classic Friday in San Diego against UC Riverside at 5:45 p.m.