OU softball non-conference games bode well for upcoming season
The No. 1 Oklahoma softball team continues its demanding non-conference schedule as they head to Palm Springs, Calif. to participate in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, which begins Thursday.
The Sooners (10-0) have played four ranked teams this season and have yet to concede a run to any of them — outscoring Top 25 opponents 31-0.
“We love playing tough games,” sophomore infielder Georgia Casey said. “That’s what it’s going to be like at the end of the season.”
The tough matchups will continue at the Mary Nutter Classic. OU will face No. 16 Georgia at 3 p.m. Thursday followed by a 5:30 p.m. matchup against perennial power No. 19 Arizona. The Sooners also will face No. 23 Florida State, Nebraska and UC Santa Barbara at the classic.
“It throws us into the fire quick,” senior Jessica Shults said.
Shults, the 2012 Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year, will have the opportunity to set the Oklahoma career home run record at this week’s classic after hitting her 56th bomb last weekend.
“It’s not something I really think about,” Shults said. “I have a great team behind me, and we’re focused on the bigger picture.”
Shults relishes her job of being able to catch for senior pitchers Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne.
“It’s awesome,” Shults said. “They’re amazing people on and off the field. They compliment each other really well.”
Gascoigne was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Week after her performance at the Campbell/Cartier Classic last weekend — an award won by Ricketts the previous week.
Pitching on a staff that features Ricketts, the 2012 Big 12 Player of the Year, often overshadows Gascoigne’s accomplishments. However, it is impossible to overlook Gascoigne’s near-flawless season so far – 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA and 59 strikeouts.
“She could be the number one pitcher for a lot of teams out there,” coach Patty Gasso said. “It’s very exciting to know that we can rely on two pitchers.”
The pitching combo will be looked upon to lead the team this weekend in its last west-coast medley of games before the home opener on March 1.
The Mary Nutter Classic, like the previous two classics, will be a condensed schedule of five games within three days. Gasso admitted fatigue plays a factor in the fifth game, but it is something with which every team must cope.
Saturday’s contest against No. 23 Florida State will be final game of the upcoming classic, and the Sooners will need to be at their best.
“When the game time comes around, you’re just fired up and ready to get after it,” Casey said.