NORMAN — Oklahoma’s national title defense season is beginning to shape up. The Sooners picked up several commitments last week and released the 2014 schedule as well.
The Sooners open their title defense with a Feb. 7 doubleheader against Kentucky and Cal State Fullterton at the Easton tournament in Fullerton, Calif. Three straight tournaments open the season for OU, which defeated Tennessee in two straight games in the finals of the Women’s College World Series a year ago. That included a memorable Game 1 rally in which the Sooners came back to beat the Volunteers in 12 innings.
Oklahoma graduated senior pitcher and former Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts along with a host of other key pieces from the 2013 title team. Returning to lead the Sooners will be junior Lauren Chamberlain, the nation’s leading home run hitter a year ago.
The Sooners open their home schedule with a
four-game weekend on March 1-2 against former conference foe Nebraska and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The first Big 12 game of the season is set for March 28 at Iowa State. The first Bedlam contest is April 2 at Marita Hynes Field.
The postseason begins on May 16, and the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City begins on May 28.
The biggest challenge for a much-younger Sooners’ roster is to develop the pitching staff after losing Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne. A few Sooners — including George Casey, Leslie Miller and Taylor Dewbery — all have some experience in the circle, and all three will likely see time there when the season begins.
While Oklahoma prepares to defend its title, the Sooners also announced the next wave of signees for the program. Six athletes signed on National Signing Day last week and will join the team in a year.
Paige Parker, Kelsey Arnold, Lea Wodach, Nicole Pendley and Destinie Lookout will join the squad next fall, while Macey Hatfield will join the Sooners next spring.
“I would call this class, as a whole, very athletic,” coach Patty Gasso said. “That’s something, as a coach, that I’ve been looking for over the last five or six years, just bringing in athletic student-athletes who are versatile and strong not just with the bat but also with their arms, and who run well. Everybody in this group can do that.”
The class includes Nicole Pendley, the younger sister of last season’s Big 12 Player of the Year and OU junior Shelby Pendley, as well as Parker, a dominant left-handed pitcher from Missouri.
“Nicole Pendley is going to be a fun player to watch,” Gasso said. “She’s a triple threat: she’s a slapper, she can lay down a bunt and she can hit for power. Paige Parker is bringing the lefty back into the program. I think she’ll make an immediate impact as a freshman on the mound. She has such a high ceiling and I’m really excited about her future here.”
Follow me @Chosler88
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.