Arkansas made history last weekend, and has a chance to make some more against Oklahoma this weekend. Doing so will be no easy task. The Sooners are back-to-back national champs, have an incredible record and rolled through Big 12 play this year. Beating the Sooners would mean one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Softball. This is what the two teams look like.
Arkansas Razorbacks - (42-15, 12-12 SEC)
How They Got Here: Beat DePaul 2-0, Beat Wichita State 5-0 and 6-4
In The Circle: Mary Haff: 29-6, 1.35 ERA, .152 avg; Autumn Storms: 12-9, 2.47 ERA, .257 avg
At The Plate: Hannah McEwen: .341 avg, 12 HRs, 56 RBIs; Ashley Diaz: .313 avg, 6 HRs, 29 RBIs; Katie Warrick: .314 avg, 8 HRs, 25 RBIs
Oklahoma Sooners - (53-3, 18-0 Big 12) yes you read that correct.
How They Got Here: Beat Boston 9-0, Beat Tulsa 8-0, Beat Missouri 7-0
In The Circle: Paige Parker: 28-2, 0.89 ERA, .179 avg; Paige Lowary: 9-1, 0.97 ERA, .176 avg
At The Plate: Jocelyn Alo: .410 avg, 26 HRs, 67 RBIs; Sydney Romero: .430 avg, 21 HRs, 61 RBIs; Nicole Pendley: .327 avg, 15 HRs, 49 RBIs
To get a better scouting report on the Sooners, we asked Matt Hofeld at Heartland Sports about them. Big thanks to him for taking the time to answer these.
1. After back-to-back National Titles, this year’s team has just lost 3 games and went undefeated in Big 12 play, how have they avoided any complacency?
MH: I think that one of the great things about this team is that they challenge one another, and they play for each other. They are truly a tight-knit group that has a bond well beyond the softball field.
Patty Gasso basically gave them some instruction and turned them loose. They have so much experience that everything just kind of took off from there. They developed what would end up being the nation’s longest winning streak and that snowballed into the opportunity to make history by running through the Big 12 unbeaten. Both of those were more than enough motivation for them to stay focused on the field.
2. This senior class has accomplished just about everything at OU, what do they mean to the program and how big is it to send them out on top?
MH: I’m not sure that she would just come right out and say it, but I’m pretty confident that this is Patty Gasso’s senior class. What they’ve meant to the program goes beyond the 53-3 record and back-to-back championships. They took what was already a winning tradition and developed it into a championship culture.
Starting with Paige Parker, who came in a took a leadership role as a freshman, this group of seniors has raised the bar of excellence in the program to where it isn’t just them who demand greatness, it’s the incoming freshmen, transfers and the fanbase.
The crazy thing is the way they do it though. They approach the game with a childlike enthusiasm and kindness that everyone appreciates. They’ll stomp a hole in their opponents and afterwards the opposing coach and players will talk about how much they appreciate Patty Gasso and her team. It’s the craziest thing!
3. The Team is 53-3 on the year, are there any perceived weaknesses? How does a team go about beating them?
MH: I don’t believe the bottom of the line up is as consistent as what they’ve been in the past. They still have power scattered throughout the order but the average takes a drop after the 5th spot. The top five hitters are all .300 or higher (Sydney Romero and Jocely Alo are batting .430 and .410 respectively) but only one of the bottom four in the order (Kelsey Arnold) is batting north of .300 on the year.
Also, Paige Parker was involved in an automobile accident following the regional opener on Friday night. She was unavailable on Saturday but came back to throw 4.1 innings against Missouri on Sunday. She only had one strikeout against the Tigers.
At the risk of sounding cliche’ you have to out-hit Oklahoma to beat them. If you can get to Parker early then the team seems to press and not play as clean from the field. Parker also has a tendency to make some mistakes, in that situation, so you have to make her pay.
You absolutely don’t want to play from behind against this team because they seem to only get stronger once they take a lead. I feel like it gives them a huge mental advantage.