NORMAN — On paper, Oklahoma’s three-game series against Iowa State this weekend is one-sided. The Sooners are 40-3 and ranked No. 1 in the country, while the Cyclones are 19-26 and just 4-8 in the Big 12. And the Sooners are riding high after taking two of three against No. 6 Texas in Austin last week and taking complete control of the conference race.
Which is exactly what makes each of OU’s final nine Big 12 games so important.
Texas has played two more conference games than OU and is expected to sweep its remaining Big 12 opponents. That means the Sooners, who would hold the tiebreaker, effectively have a game to give in the race for the title.
Not that they view it that way.
“We have to keep working still,” sophomore Shelby Pendley said. “We are where we want to be, but we have to keep winning.”
Winning is something that is never more difficult than it was in Austin. After a decisive Sooner victory in the opener, the Longhorns rebounded with strong performance to withstand a late OU rally to win the second game, and the Sooners then did the same in the finale, with Michelle Gascoigne relieving Keilani Ricketts in the final inning to work out a jam and secure the win.
The combination of Ricketts and Gascoigne was instrumental to the Sooners’ success. While Texas ace Blaire Luna looked worn down in the third game, Ricketts started strong after a day of rest and was able to hand it over to Gascoigne in the final inning, who earned the game’s final out on a bases-loaded strikeout with a frenzied Longhorn crowd screaming in the background.
It was an impressive performance, and an experience that Gascoigne said will benefit the Sooners down the stretch run, starting with today’s 6:30 p.m. game against the Cyclones.
“It was a really good challenge and it’s something we can take and put under our belts,” she said. “This will be big for us later on.”
After the Iowa State series, with the weekend’s games coming at noon Saturday and Sunday, the Sooners will travel to Lawrence, Kan. for a series against Kansas before wrapping up the regular season with three games against Bedlam rival OSU split between Norman, Oklahoma City and Stillwater.
Also at stake is OU’s top spot in the college softball RPI, the metric that is used to determine regional assignments and seedings. If the Sooners can hold onto the top spot through the end of the season, they are guaranteed to host a regional and will likely be able to advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City for the second year in a row without ever leaving the state.
“We understand that we control our own destiny,” coach Patty Gasso said. “We have it in our hands and it’s up to us to finish.”
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