By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — This season, it seems like the Sooners have everything going for them but the weather.
Oklahoma, which this week became the unanimous No. 1 team in the country, is 27-1 and on a 10-game winning streak. With a dominating performance in Fullteron, Calif. last week, the Sooners tied a school record with seven straight shutouts.
All of that is on the line today when No. 11 Louisville visits Marita Hynes Field for a three-game series, with a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. today and another game scheduled for noon tomorrow.
On the field, things couldn’t be going much better for OU, which scored 33 runs last weekend while allowing none. The biggest challenge to both the Sooners and the Cardinals may come in the form of the weather, which is expected to be cold, rainy and windy.
Provided the teams are able to take the field, OU coach Patty Gasso is excited to host a top-15 program.
“This is supposed to take the place of the Texas A&M and Missouri series from last year,” she said, referring to the pair of top-tier programs that left the Big 12 a year ago. “The opportunity for us to play a ranked team at home is important, and this is a big series in terms of what it will do for our body of work.”
Gasso could reach a milestone of her own, sitting just two wins away from 900 in her OU career. But with conference play just two weeks away, the Sooners are focusing on improvement more than wins, losses or streaks of any kind.
“Where we are as a group is that we want to get to a point where we can say that we can’t really get much better,” Gasso said. “But this team will tell you that we still have a lot to work on and that we’re not to that point yet.”
If that’s the case, the series against Louisville will go a long way toward showing the Sooners how far into that process they are. The Cardinals (25-4) have won 13 of their last 14 games, with the only loss coming to fifth-ranked Texas. They own wins over No. 11 LSU, No. 14 Michigan and No. 24 North Carolina in that span.
But Gasso hasn’t overworked her team heading into the showdown. Instead she gave the team two days off this week for Spring Break, and has been pleased with the results so far.
“We’ve had good quality practices,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to know how much time off to give a team, but these guys have come in ready to work. That’s key for us.”
Michelle Gascoigne and Keilani Ricketts, who are 1-2 in the country with ERAs of .59 and .72 respectively, have been another key for OU’s run. The pair have dominated opposing lineups in large part because they’re able to get ahead of hitters in the order.
The pair have combined to throw the seven consecutive shutouts and Ricketts has gone 23 innings without giving up a run. It’s a streak that the senior will try to extend against Louisville.
“We faced some tough competition in California last week and we came out focused for each game,” she said. “That gave us a lot of momentum heading into this week. They’re a tough-hitting team, but we’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
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