OU softball: Sooners to kick off season with annual Oklahoma Fall Festival
Melodie Lettkeman, The Oklahoma Daily
OU softball opens up the 2012 fall schedule as hosts the annual Oklahoma Fall Festival this weekend in Norman. The Sooners face North Central Texas at 7 tonight to begin the tournament action and will play a doubleheader on both Saturday and Sunday.
This weekend’s action will be the first time for OU to face an opponent after coming up short against Alabama in the 2012 national championship. After winning the first game, 4-1, OU fell in the next two meetings, 8-6 and 5-4 respectively, allowing the Crimson Tide to run away with the trophy.
But with a new year, the Sooners will spend the next month working on mechanics and rebuilding the team’s chemistry.
“It’s really awesome to have all of our starters back from last season after what we were able to accomplish,” junior outfielder Destinee Martinez said. “But right now we’re working on getting the freshmen involved in what we’re trying to bring to the field as a team; they’re very vocal and are starting to pull together.”
This year’s recruiting class boasts seven newcomers that all hail from the state of Oklahoma. The freshmen — pitcher Taylor Dewberry (McAlester HS), catcher Whitney Ellis (Yukon HS), outfielder Erin Miller (Jenks HS), pitcher Leslie Miller (Blanchard HS), outfielder Kady Self (Edmond North HS), infielder Jules Townsend (Holland Hall Prep) and utility player Paris Townsend (Holland Hall Prep) — joined the team in practice in September and already have started to compete for starting roles.
This is coach Patty Gasso’s first time to sign an entire class with in-state connections, but she said the local roots won’t matter come game time.
“If anything, it makes it harder on them,” Gasso said. “So many people talk to them about expectations, and they come in here with a heavier weight on their shoulders because they’ve been around the program so much. But it was such a blessing to be able to have the type of players we wanted to recruit from inside the state.”
But for the current starters, having a solid group of upcoming athletes, regardless of where they’re from, has helped the team get better.
“They’re competing for our spots, and it’s exciting to know that they are making us work harder to keep our positions,” senior catcher Jessica Shults said. “I love coming out to practice every day and watch the battles for each position because it’s making us better.”
Following Friday’s tournament opener, the Sooners will tangle with Connors State and Oklahoma Christian in Saturday’s doubleheader.
Connors State is coming off of a 26-28 record last season while Oklahoma Christian returns to the diamond after posting a 35-17 overall record in 2012 and falling to Lubbock Christian (Texas) in the Sooner Athletic Conference championship last spring.
On Sunday, OU will return for the team’s second doubleheader beginning with Odessa College before going against former OU utility player Amber Flores (2007-10), who is now Seminole State’s coach, and the Trojans, who finished 44-13 last year.
Flores, a three-time All-American who still holds several OU career batting records, was an assistant coach at Stony Brook University in New York before accepting the job at SSC last summer.