Kansas Heads South to Face No. 7 Oklahoma

March 28, 2012

Kansas at No. 7 Oklahoma
Junior Maggie Hull leads the team with a .374 batting average.
March 30 – April 1, 2012
Location Norman, Okla.
Friday 7 p.m. CT
Saturday 2 p.m. CT
Sunday 12 p.m. CT
Live Stats Kansas GameTracker
Game Notes Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. –Winners of three of their last five, the Jayhawks will travel to Norman, Okla., as the Kansas softball team prepares to take on one of the most potent offenses in the country in a three-game series at No. 7 Oklahoma, March 30-April 1.

Friday, March 30: 7 p.m. CT
Saturday, March 31: 2 p.m. CT
Sunday, April 1: 12 p.m. CT

Sooner All-Access will stream live video of each game during the weekend, but fans will need to purchase a subscription in order to watch.

Fans can also follow the action all weekend long on GameTracker, located on the softball schedule page on kuathletics.com. Live scoring updates can be found by following JayhawkSoftball on Twitter.

Kansas trails the close all-time series race with Oklahoma, 41-47. In games played in Lawrence, the Jayhawks are 9-10. The Sooners lead 26-12 in matchups in Norman, Okla., while Kansas leads on neutral turf, 20-10. Oklahoma has won the last four meetings as the Jayhawks last defeated the Sooners on April 11, 2009.

– Kansas is receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, released on March 27, after claiming the series win against Oklahoma State. Oklahoma is ranked seventh in both national polls.

– The Jayhawks debuted at No. 25 when the NCAA released its first RPI projections of the season on March 27. Five of the Big 12’s nine softball schools check-in in the top 25 and three more are in the top 50. KU is 6-5 this year against top-100 RPI opponents, and 17-2 facing schools with an RPI higher than 100.

– KU heads to Oklahoma well-versed in life on the road. Of Kansas’ 30 games, 27 have been played away from home.

– In their first midweek action of the season, the Jayhawks split a doubleheader at Missouri State. KU won game one, 4-2 and dropped game two, 5-4. In both games, KU came from behind to tie the score.

– As a team, Kansas’ .291 batting average ranks fifth in the league, while junior left fielder Maggie Hull leads the squad hitting at a .374 clip. Both she and leadoff hitter Ashley Newman rank in the Big 12’s top-five in runs scored and top-10 in total hits.

– On the flip side, the Jayhawk pitching staff is holding its opponents to a .209 batting average. Freshman Alicia Pille is keeping hitters at a .190 clip, which ranks ninth in the league. Pille also recorded her Big 12-best third save and seventh shutout (2nd) over the weekend against Oklahoma State. On Tuesday, Pille threw her ninth complete game of the year against Missouri State for her 11th win of 2012.

ABOUT KANSAS (23-7, 2-4 Big 12 Conference)
The Jayhawks took a break from Big 12 play for their first midweek action of the year in a doubleheader at Missouri State on Tuesday. In both games, Kansas rallied back from deficits and came away with a split. A series win against OSU moved Kansas to fifth in the Big 12 standings heading into the weekend.

KU enters Tuesday’s doubleheader hitting .291 as a team, with six Jayhawks posting batting averages of .300 or better. Although the Jayhawks were unable to take MSU in a back-and-forth game two battle, KU did outhit the Bears, 9-8, in the nightcap. Junior shortstop led the Jayhawks in Springfield, going 4-for-7 with three RBIs in the doubleheader.

The Jayhawks’ trend of being selective hitters, striking out nearly 100 times less than their opponents, will be vital this weekend. The Sooner pitching staff leads the league with 296 strikeouts and a 0.74 ERA. Aside from leading the team in batting average, Newman and Maggie Hullrank in the top-10 among Big 12 hitters in total hits and runs scored.

In the circle, Smith predicts that all three Jayhawk starters will be used regularly throughout the weekend to comprise the staff needed to slow the Sooner bats. In addition to KU’s everyday starters, senior Ashley Spencergarnered experience against the Sooners in 2011. In a doubleheader at home last season, Spencer threw a total of 7.2 innings in relief over two games.

The Jayhawk pitchers hold a team ERA of 2.31 and is one of only four staffs in the league to break the 200-strikeout barrier at 211. Freshman Alicia Pille (11-4) leads the starters with a 1.84 ERA and 119 strikeouts, good for third in the Big 12. The rookie’s seven shutouts mark the fourth-most all-time for a Kansas freshman and the most recorded by a Jayhawk pitcher since the 2006 season (Kassie Humphreys, 10).

ABOUT NO. 7 OKLAHOMA (26-4, 2-1 Big 12 Conference)
Picked to finish second in the Big 12 preseason poll, No. 7 Oklahoma currently sits in third place in the conference standings and played host to Oklahoma State Wednesday evening. Prior to the Bedlam Series opener, the Sooners snapped a 17-game win streak in the last of a three-game set at No. 17/20 Baylor. The 1-0 loss to the Bears marked the only run Oklahoma gave up over the weekend.

At the plate, the Sooners are hitting a red-hot .330 batting average as a team with a Big 12-best 45 home runs. Freshman first baseman Lauren Chamberlain has taken the Big 12 by storm as she enters the weekend leading the conference in home runs (12), runs scored (32), slugging percentage (.851) and RBIs (38). Meanwhile, teammate Jessica Shults paces the Big 12 with her 39 hits and ranks fifth with 28 RBIs.

In the circle, junior All-American Keilani Ricketts (14-4) holds a nearly impossible 0.74 ERA in 114.1 innings and is presently the back-to-back Big 12 Pitcher of the Week. Her 186 strikeouts rank fifth in the country and she is the only pitcher in the Big 12 with more shutouts (8) than KU’s Alicia Pille(7). Aside from dominating the circle, Ricketts is batting .403 with eight doubles, eight homers and 22 RBIs.

The Sooners No. 2 in the circle is another junior lefty, Michelle Gascoigne (11-0). She accumulated a 0.81 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 60.1 innings prior to Wednesday night’s game against Oklahoma State.

HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On facing a potent Oklahoma team:
“They have one of the best teams in the country, year-in and year-out. This year they have one of the best freshman in the country in (Lauren) Chamberlain and obviously, one of the best pitchers in the country in (Keilani) Ricketts. Ricketts and (Michelle) Gascoigne are a great on-two punch on their pitching staff. It’s going to be a tough weekend. We’re in a conference where we play the best every weekend, and this weekend will be no different.” On the pitching staff’s plan against an Oklahoma lineup with 45 total home runs: “We’re still focusing on what we need to do to be successful no matter what the other team does. We as coaches adjust our game plan, but the girls just need to go out there, focus on themselves and compete. We get in trouble when we start focusing on other people too much. They need to stay within themselves and focus on what they need to do to be successful individually and as a team.”

On Ashley Newman and Maggie Hull’s prominent role at the top of the lineup:
“Undoubtedly, Maggie (Hull) and Ashley (Newman) have been the catalyst for our offense. Liz (Kocon), Mariah (Montgomery), Maddie (Stein), Rosie Hulland others have all done well, but for us to win, Maggie and Ashley have to do their jobs and perform well. They increase our chances of winning when they do well.”

On her use of the pitching staff this weekend:
“Ashley Spencerpitched quite a bit against them last year and got that experience. The pitching staff will be a staff again this weekend, we’re going to use all of them. They need to look at the success they had against Oklahoma State and focus in on why they were successful. They were consistent, they hit their spots, they were changing speeds and they need to do that again this weekend against an unbelievable offense.”

For the seventh time in eight weekends, Kansas will take to the road and Waco, Texas is next on the list. The Jayhawks and No. 17/20 Baylor Bears are scheduled to play in a doubleheader on Friday, April 6 starting at 4 p.m., and will wrap up the series on Saturday, April 7 at 11 a.m.