OU softball: Top-ranked Sooners to compete in last regular-season tourney
The top-ranked OU softball team will make its last West Coast trip of the regular season as it heads to Fullerton, Calif. to compete in the Judi Garman Classic over the weekend —Oklahoma’s last regular-season tournament.
The Sooners (22-1) will play a double-header beginning at noon Friday against Pacific and North Carolina State. OU’s featured matchup versus No. 19 Arizona will then take place at 5 p.m. Saturday. To round out the weekend, the Sooners face another double-header beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday against Penn State and host team, Cal State Fullerton.
The games this weekend will be the first in school history when Oklahoma will play as the consensus No. 1 team in the country. The Sooners have been atop the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll for the majority of the year, but this week marks the first time this season Oklahoma also has been recognized as No. 1 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll.
“It’s definitely something that we’ve all worked for and dreamed of,” senior pitcher Michelle Gascoigne said. “It’s really cool to say that we were part of making the history of this program.”
The accomplishment is substantial, but Gascoigne also said that being No. 1 at the end of the season is all that matters. The ranking is only a stepping-stone for a squad that came up just short of a national title one year ago.
“It’s an honor, but at the same time you don’t win championships in March,” coach Patty Gasso said. “Being number one now doesn’t really mean anything except that people are acknowledging you. To be called number one in June is all we care about.”
“We want to keep working day by day,” senior captain Jessica Shults said. “We don’t really look at rankings or anything. We just have to keep focusing on getting better.”
In addition to the No. 1 ranking, sophomore infielder Shelby Pendley is coming off a player of the week performance in the Big 12. OU pitchers have posted a nation-leading 0.80 ERA. And sophomore sensation, infielder Lauren Chamberlain, leads the country in three offensive categories, including home runs with 13.
Oklahoma has been dominant all season, but the Sooners could not be any better in California. Heading into Friday, OU is 10-0 in the state with several wins against ranked opponents. The trend could continue at the Judi Garman Classic.
One reason for the Sooner's success in California is the number of players on the roster from the golden state. Eight members of the team are from California – nine if you count the coach.
“They’re playing in front of their family, and they’re playing in front of their friends and that’s their home,” Gasso, a Torrance, Calif. native, said. “Anytime we go out there, you’ll see our team sometimes overwork to be good.”