Lauren Chamberlain was facing an altogether new experience heading into last weekend’s series against Iowa State. The sophomore phenom was hitless in four straight games, something that hadn’t happened in her young but stellar career at Oklahoma.
The trouble continued into the weekend. Before Sunday’s game, Chamberlain had just 1 hit in her last 16 at-bats, including an 0-for-13 stretch before homering in her second at-bat of Friday’s monster 24-1 win over the Cyclones.
It’s a streak that may have been unremarkable if not for the extremely high standards Chamberlain had set. She entered the Texas series batting near .500, the mini-slump wasn’t easy to take.
“The hardest thing for me is accepting that it’s going to happen and not letting it get to me,” she said. “I tried not to stress about what happened at Texas.”
One person who didn’t stress was coach Patty Gasso, who said that Chamberlain “never left.” If that was true, then Chamberlain used Sunday’s victory over Iowa State to remind everyone of that fact. She put together an emphatic comeback game of sorts, going 2 for 2 with three RBIs.
For top-ranked OU (43-3, 11-1), having Chamberlain back in form is as good a sign as possible as the Sooners head to Kansas (30-15, 5-7) to try and hold onto the one-game lead they hold over Texas in the race for the Big 12 title. The Sooners own the tiebreaker over the Longhorns after taking two of three in Austin two weeks ago, and can afford to drop one game in their last six and still win, with this weekend’s three-game set with the Jayhawks being followed by a Bedlam series to wrap up the regular season.
Not that the Sooners are looking at it that way.
“We are not thinking about the next couple of weeks, it’s pretty much just one game at a time,” Chamberlain said. “Kansas is going to be tough. They’re a tough team always, so we’re just getting ready for them.”
In Kansas, the Sooners will face a team without a dominant pitcher. The Jayhawks have three different pitchers who have recorded at least nine decisions. For Oklahoma, which leads the nation in runs per game and are third in slugging percentage and fifth in home runs per game, it’s a prime opportunity for the Sooners’ offense to rack up runs.
Scoring runs is something the Sooners have only gotten better at recently. Shelby Pendley is leading the way with a .556 average and 10 home runs in her last 12 games, but she’s not alone. Five other Sooners — including Destinee Martinez, Callie Parsons and Brianna Turang, who are surging at the bottom of the lineup — are batting over .400 in the last month. The strength from top to bottom in the lineup is something Gasso said is a sign of an already-explosive offense improving in the season’s final weeks.
“Everybody is contributing,” she said. “Those who aren’t hitting are getting walks. Everybody is really starting to get on their game.”
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