Softball Opens Conference Season At Oklahoma

March 20, 2008

LAWRENCE, Kan. –

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Riding its second-longest winning streak of the season at five games, the Kansas softball team (23-6) will open its 2008 Big 12 Conference season this Friday and Saturday at Oklahoma (25-8). First pitch on Friday is set for 7 p.m., while Saturday the team’s will meet for a 1 p.m. contest.

About Kansas

Kansas, at 23-6 overall, is off to its best start under head coach Tracy Bunge and the program’s best start since 1992 when the Jayhawks went 24-5 to open the year. KU is riding its second-longest win streak of the year at five games and is set to open its 2008 Big 12 Conference season against Oklahoma for the first time since 1999 when Kansas played its first league games versus the Sooners after its original conference opener with OklahomaState was rained out. Juniors Dougie McCaulley and Val Chapple pace the KU offense batting .396 and .349, respectively. McCaulley, who’s average ranks eighth in the Big 12, also leads the team with 36 hits and 91 at-bats. Her 22 runs are second only to Chapple’s 23. Chapple, one of only two Jayhawks to play and start all 29 games this season, has a team-high six home runs and 21 RBIs thanks in part to four homers and 13 runs batted in during KU’s three-game Kansas Invitational, March 14-16. Three other Jayhawks also have double digit RBIs including freshman Brittany Hile (17), sophomore Amanda Jobe (14) and junior Stevie Crisosto (10). Pitcher Valerie George, a junior out of Tucson, Ariz., boasts a Big 12-leading 0.69 ERA with just eight earned runs allowed off 45 hits in 81.1 innings of work. At 11-1, she is also fourth in the league with 93 strikeouts. Sophomore Sarah Vertelka, 7-3, is 13th in the Big 12 with an ERA of 1.88.

Scouting the Opponent

Oklahoma

Oklahoma, 25-8, is coming off a 3-2 loss to MissouriState on Wednesday night and has lost two of its last three contests. Amber Flores is 10th in the Big 12 standings batting .402 and leads the Sooners in nearly every offensive category including hits (35), runs (33), RBIs (29) and home runs where she is second in the league with 10. Traci Dickenson is also a major contributor at the plate hitting .359 and has batted in 24 runs. Savannah Long (.340) holds the team lead with 10 doubles and is second on the squad with 32 hits. Samantha Ricketts is another 20-run contributor with 26 RBIs on a .329 average. In the bullpen, D.J. Mathis leads the Big 12 with 116.1 innings pitched and 20 starts. Her 138 strikeouts are second in the conference, while her 0.90 ERA is third. Lauren Eckermann has 49 strikeouts in 56.0 innings of work and is third on the team with a 2.50 ERA. Jadyn Smith (1.27 ERA, 27.2 innings) has made 13 appearances from the circle.

Head coach Patty Gasso enters her 14th season with the Sooners and has amassed a 664-216 overall record at Oklahoma.

Chapple Named National And Big 12 Player Of The Week

Softball junior Val Chapple was named USA Softball National Player of the Week by the Amateur Softball Association as well as Big 12 Softball Player of the Week for the week of March 10-16. Going 7-for-8 at the plate, including four home runs and a double in three games, the 5’3″ power assisted Kansas to three wins at the KU Invitational.

The in-state product from Overland Park, who is a first-time recipient of both awards, batted a team-best .875 and also batted in 13 runs and scored eight of her own, while collecting 20 total bases for a 2.500 slugging percentage. The third baseman also added two putouts and eight assists in an errorless defensive effort. She tied a school record with three home runs in the first game of a doubleheader against Buffalo on Friday, March 14. Chapple went 3-for-3 at the plate with two-run homers in the first, third and fourth innings as she helped lead the Jayhawks to a 9-0, five-inning victory. KU’s third baseman tied current assistant coach Christi Musser’s KU single-game home run record set on April 21, 2001. The three roundtrippers also rank second nationally as she becomes the 35th player in history to hit three homers in a single game.

Chapple again went 3-for-3 in game two against the Bulls, including her fourth homer of the day, to collect four RBIs and giving her 10 in the doubleheader. She added one more hit (a double) and three more RBIs in an 11-3 victory over Louisiana Tech to wrap up the weekend.

Conference Milestone

With a 93-123 all-time record in Big 12 play, Kansas is just seven league victories away from reaching the 100-win plateau.

In the Clutch

Hurler Val George has proven she can handle high pressure situations. When George is in the circle with two outs in an inning, she has limited batters to just a .121 average as only 11 of the 91 batters she has faced have gotten a hit in a two-out situation.

Up Next

The Jayhawks return to Arrocha Ballpark next week for a four game homestand. KU will host MissouriState in a doubleheader Tuesday, March 26 at 3 p.m. before playing a weekend series with Texas Tech, March 29-30. Saturday’s game against the Raiders will begin at 1 p.m. The following day, the team’s will square off at noon.