NORMAN — Last year Oklahoma’s lineup never faced any questions. It was anchored by Keilani Ricketts and the soon-to-be program career home runs leader in Lauren Chamberlain. It had a hot new hitter in Shelby Pendley, the Big 12 player of the year last season, and it was one of the only offenses in NCAA history that may have been better in the 7-9 hole than the first three batters.
This year’s team was far different. While the Sooners returned some core parts of the offense, coach Patty Gasso was putting together the parts of a fundamentally different lineup.
And the Sooners did struggle at first. They got off to a 5-4 start and managed just six runs in the four losses, including a 5-4 loss to a Kentucky team that like OU is playing in this week’s Women’s College World Series. The Sooners fell to No. 23 in the national polls, the closest they’ve come to falling out of the poll since its inception in 1995.
“The start of the season is the start of the season, and that’s when you work out the kinks,” Chamberlain said. “We knew we had work to do and we set our minds that we weren’t going to fall out and were going to make a stand at the end of the season.”
It took time, but the Sooners turned it around. But as the season went on it seemed that every time OU found a groove they would suffer a setback. First it was a back injury to Chamberlain that sidelined her for a month. Then it was when Kady Self — who worked her way into the lineup after not seeing time last season and blossomed into a legitimate contender for Big 12 player of the year — suffered a torn ACL that ended her season.