The Norman Transcript

April 4, 2014

Pendley’s punch can also be felt in the bullpen

By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Entering the season, the biggest question within Oklahoma’s softball program is who would step up to replace departing pitchers Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne. The Sooners had several solid pitchers on the roster, but none had much experience.

A major piece of the puzzle fell into place when Kelsey Stevens transferred in from Stanford. The sophomore has taken over most of the starting duties and put together a 17-5 record this season. But the rest of the staff remained relatively inexperienced, and the Sooners haven’t settled on a definitive rotation with the inexperienced group.

But the answer may lie with the most inexperienced of them all.

Junior Shelby Pendley pitched in high school but hadn’t stepped into the pitcher’s circle in her first two years in college. She starred at the plate, being named the Big 12 Player of the Year last season and playing a major role in OU’s run to the national championship. She’s continued to impress this season, batting a career-high .417 while retaining the power for the home-run ball, including her 11th of the season in Wednesday’s Bedlam win over Oklahoma State.

But she didn’t pitch. That is, until she convinced coach Patty Gasso to give her a shot.

“She came and told me she could help, and I first I was like ‘yeah, okay,’” Gasso said of her skeptical first conversation with Pendley about pitching. “But she came to me again, and when Shelby Pendley tells you something like that you have to listen.”

She did. The next step was a secretive bullpen session with the coaching staff, one that surprised even the veteran Gasso.

“Shelby’s not just a thrower, she’s a pitcher,” she said. “She’s got good speed and good movement on the ball.”

And Gasso gave her a chance to prove it.

Pendley’s first appearance came in mid-March against Louisiana-Lafayette, and it was one to remember. She threw two scoreless innings and recorded the first strikeout of her collegiate pitching career.

Since then, Pendley has continued to impress. She’s made six appearances and is yet to give up a run. In that time, she’s thrown 9.2 innings and struck out five batters, one of those coming in a crucial, bases-loaded jam against LSU two weeks ago.

It’s been a stellar debut for Pendley, and one she hopes to keep going this weekend as the 15th-ranked Sooners host Kansas for a critical Big 12 series that begins with a 7 p.m. game tonight.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed pitching,” Pendley said. “It’s been fun to pitch again.”

Corbin Hosler

Follow me @Chosler88

chosler@normantranscript.com

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