The Norman Transcript

April 11, 2014

Baylor a big test for Sooners

By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — You won’t catch Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso underselling the importance of this weekend’s trip to Baylor.

“The Big 12 championship probably goes through Waco,” she announced after the Sooners took a pair of non-conference victories over Wichita State on Tuesday. “They’re a very good team, and they’ve won some big games.”

So too have the Sooners, and the two teams are locked into a battle for the conference lead. Thirteenth-ranked OU holds the conference lead at 7-0 after sweeping Kansas last weekend, while 12th-ranked Baylor is on its heels at second place with a 3-1 record. Also at 3-1 is Texas.

By the time the two teams wrap up Sunday afternoon, the conference race will be much clearer. Either the Sooners will stand in complete control of their own destiny, or Baylor will turn the race into a free-for-all.

“It will be tough,” Gasso said. “We have to go on the road and play out of our usual routine. Our goal that we’ve been talking about is just to take two of three.”

It’s a compliment to Baylor that Gasso has her eyes set on winning the series rather than shooting for the sweep. The Bears have one of the nation’s best pitchers in senior Whitney Canion, the school’s all-time leader in wins and strikeouts. She was named a finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award earlier this week, along with OU’s Shelby Pendley, and sports a 1.51 earned-run average this season.

Baylor has won seven of its last 10 games, with three of the wins coming in shutout fashion.

While the Sooners know they have their work cut out for them, they’re also confident. OU is riding a 12-game winning streak and has outscored opponents 87-9 in that stretch. For a team that started the season out with some tough losses, Gasso appreciates how far the Sooners have come even after losing Lauren Chamberlain to injury.

“This is a team on a mission,” she said. “We’ve been a slow and steady type of team, but we kept moving forward and making progress, and now we’re starting to reap the benefits of that.”

And the winning hasn’t hurt either.

“It’s all about that momentum, and we want to use every ounce of it we can,” Javen Henson said. “Everyone in the lineup is gaining confidence, and now we need to take it to Baylor.”

Corbin Hosler

Follow me @Chosler88

chosler@normantranscript.com

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