The Norman Transcript

Local Sports

February 14, 2014

Sooners set for even tougher opposition

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s season didn’t begin exactly the way the Sooners wanted, but they’ll get a chance to change things when they play another slate of games at the Littlewood Classic in Phoenix.

The Sooners dropped their first two games to open the season last weekend before rallying to win the final three games of the weekend, including a narrow 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh in the final game. The 3-2 start dropped OU to No. 11 in the coaches poll from No. 2 in the first edition of the rankings.

Things don’t get any easier for OU this weekend. The Sooners will face third-ranked Washington and fifth-ranked Arizona State at the tournament, with Arizona State coming as the second game in a double-header that begins at 4:45 p.m. today against Illinois State. The Sooners will play another pair of games on Saturday, with SIU-Edwardsville followed by Washington before wrapping up the weekend with a 2:30 p.m. game on Sunday against Michigan State.

It’s a tough challenge for a Sooners team that unexpectedly struggled on offense against tough competition last weekend. They scored just seven runs in 24 innings in losses to 12th-ranked Kentucky and Cal-State Fullerton and a win over Pittsburgh.

Washington and Arizona State both were dominant last weekend, with Washington outscoring its five opponents 39-8 in five victories while Arizona State got off to a perfect 6-0 start with five of those six wins coming by at least seven runs.

One area that was encouraging for the Sooners was the pitching staff that is grouping to fill the void left by departed seniors Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne. Led by sophomore transfer Kelsey Stevens, who is 2-0 with an ERA of 1.62, the group hasn’t allowed more than five runs and finished the weekend by holdings its last three opponents to one run apiece.

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