The Norman Transcript

Sports

February 8, 2013

Sooners open season still motivated by title series loss

NORMAN — The road to the Women’s College World Series, and possibly the title that came so close a year ago, begins today for the Oklahoma softball team.

The Sooners open the season with a pair of games today at the Kajikawa Classic in Phoenix with the first coming at 10 a.m. against Stanford and the second at 3:30 p.m. against Oregon State.

The second-ranked Sooners are loaded this season after returning nearly everyone from last year’s team that came just a few innings short of a national title. That includes All-Americans in Lauren Chamberlain and Jessica Shults as well as Keilani Ricketts, the dominant pitcher who a year ago was named the USA Softball Player of the Year.

While the familiar names are the highlights, there are plenty of talented newcomers on the roster. Chief among those is sophomore Shelby Pendley, a first-team All-Pac 12 member last year at Arizona before transferring to OU.

Joining Pendley on the team for the first time is a talented freshmen class, with seven players all from Oklahoma who are expected to provide plenty of depth to the roster.

For coach Patty Gasso, entering her 19th season at OU, the biggest challenge is moving this team forward after a disappointing end to last season.

“They have a lot of unfinished business,” she said. “They still feel it inside and it’s not something you shake off. They had a hand on the trophy and they knew it.”

But while last season is still fresh in the minds of many of the Sooners, Gasso stressed that this is a different team than it was a year ago.

“We have a lot of returners but this is a new year,” she said. “The dynamic is different with so many freshmen and the addition of Shelby. We have to put last year behind us.”

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