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Big 12 softball tourney returns to OKC

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ASA Hall of Fame Stadium has hosted every Big 12 Softball Championship.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – After a six-year hiatus, the Bug 12 softball championship returns to Oklahoma City’s ASA Hall of Fame Stadium this weekend. The Oklahoma Sooners, favorites to claim this year’s title, is the defending champion since they last won the tournament in 2010.

Although no odds are posted in Las Vegas for college softball, the Sooners are favored since they rank sixth in the poll, above all other Big 12 teams. As a matter of fact, Baylor is the only other ranked Big 12 team. The Bears are 12th in the ESPN/USA Softball poll and 16th in the USA Today/NFCA ranking.

Sooners and Bears dominate the all-Big 12 postseason team. OU swept all but one postseason award and that honor went to Baylor junior center fielder Jessie Scroggins as Defensive Player of the Year.

Paige Parker, Oklahoma’s ace left-hander, was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year for the third straight year. The Independence, Missouri junior joins Texas’ Cat Osterman as the only pitcher to win the honor three consecutive years.

In Big 12 action, Parker (18-5 this season) went 8-0 with three complete games and one shutout and led the conference with a 0.86 earned run average and opponents' batting average of .142. In 49.0 Big 12 innings, Parker struck out 67 and walked just 10.

For the third straight year, a Sooner was tabbed Player of the Year. This year the honor goes to first baseman Shay Knighten, who also is the fourth sophomore in leagues history to earn the honor. The Buena Park, Calif., native was the top hitter during conference play as she had twice as many home runs as any other player (8), nine more RBI than anyone else (27), 18 more total bases than the next closest player (54) and a slugging percentage 230 points higher than second place (.885). She also tied for the league lead in runs with teammate Nicole Mendes (21), was third in batting average (.443) and hits (27) and fifth in on-base percentage (.493).

Nicole Mendes, a freshman right fielder from Houston, became the sixth Sooner to be recognized as the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. She tied for the league lead in runs scored (21) and hits (28) and was second in average (.444), third in stolen bases (11) and total bases (35), sixth in slugging (.556) and seventh in OBP (.478).

Coach Patty Gasso, who led the Sooners to their sixth straight and 10th overall Big 12 regular season title, was chosen Coach of the Year for the 10th time in her career. OU finished the conference season 17-1 (.944), marking the fifth consecutive year OU has had two losses or less.

Pitcher Paige Lowry and centerfielder Nicole Pendley, both juniors, join Parker, Knighten, and Mendes on the all-conference first team.

So, the Sooners have the star power to earn their fifth Big 12 Championship tournament in school history. They are currently tied with the Longhorns with four titles overall.

Oklahoma’s only loss in the conference this year came at the hands of the Bears, who landed four players on the league’s first team. Baylor beat OU, 4-3, two weeks ago in Norman. Since then, the Sooners won seven straight to close out the regular season while the Bears went 5-2 down the stretch.

Both teams are on opposite sides of the tournament pools. Oklahoma will meet Texas Tech and Texas in its pool while BU has Iowa State and Oklahoma State in its pool. The Cowboys placed third in the conference after dropping a three-game set to the Sooners last weekend. OSU finished with a 33-22 record overall and 12-6 in the Big 12. Baylor finished second with a 13-5 conference mark.

The Pokes landed two players on the all-Big 12 first team—senior pitcher Brandi Needham and junior right fielder Vanessa Shipley.

Needham, a Dripping Springs, Texas native, went 18-8 in the circle this year, second-most wins in the conference this year and 11 more than she had a year ago. Shippy, a Coeur d'Alene, Idaho product, batted .410 with 66 hits and a team-high 44 RBIs.

OSU went 1-2 against Baylor this year and 2-1 against Iowa State.

Big 12 Championship Softball Schedule

Friday, May 12 (tournament seedings listed)

Pool A

No. 4 Texas vs. No. 6 Texas Tech, 11 a.m. Integris Field

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Texas, 2 p.m. WCWS Stadium

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 Texas Tech, 7:30 p.m. WCWS Stadium

Pool B

No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State, 11 a.m. WCWS Stadium

No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 5 Iowa State, 2 p.m. Integris Field

No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 5 Iowa State, 5 p.m. WCWS Stadium

Saturday, May 13

Pool A 3rd place vs. Pool B 3rd place, 11 a.m.

Pool A 2nd place vs. Pool B 2nd place, 1:30 p.m.

Pool A 1st place vs. Pool B 1st place, 4:30 p.m.

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Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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