NORMAN — Of course, none of it matters until the games are actually played and, then, it can seem like none of it matters until the NCAA starts handing out regionals in May.
Still, as a measure of the strength of coach Patty Gasso’s reigning national champion softball program, the preseason prizes continue to roll in for the Sooners.
Thursday was the day Oklahoma juniors Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley were each made part of the Top 50 Watch List for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award.
Should either of them win it, it would mark three straight seasons a Sooner would have claimed the prize. Pitcher and slugger Keilani Ricketts won it each of the last two seasons.
Pendley is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, coming off a season in which she hit .357 with an on-base percentage of .488 and a slugging percentage of .842. Pendley, who transferred in from Arizona, lashed 15 home runs and drove in 73 runs.
Chamberlain, though, has to be the most feared hitter in the nation after finishing the season with 30 home runs for a second straight season, not to mention a .458 batting average, .533 on-base percentage and a stunning 1.113 slugging percentage. Chamberlain drove in 84 runs last season.
OU is one of 11 schools across the nation and the only on in the Big 12 to have two players on the watch list.
Big 12 faves: Though the Sooners are rebuilding in the circle, having lost Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne to graduation, they are nonetheless the conference favorite heading into the season.
In a vote by the conference coaches, OU received six of seven first-place votes. Functionally, because coaches can not vote for their own team, the Sooners are a unanimous pick.
Baylor received what had to be OU coach Patty Gasso’s top pick and placed second in the preseason poll, followed by Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Iowa State.
No. 2 again: Already the Sooners had been tabbed No. 2 in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Top 25. This week, they were also tabbed the nation’s No. 2 team in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Preseason Poll.
OU garnered five of 20 first-place votes in the ESPN poll. Tennessee, atop the poll, received six first-place votes. Third-ranked Florida also received six first-place votes, while No. 5 Washington and No. 7 Arizona State also received a first-place vote.
The rest of the top 10 includes No. 4 Michigan, No. 6 Alabama, No. 8 Oregon, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 10 Texas.
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