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May 10, 2014
Sooners look to end season on high note
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso made clear her team's intentions for this weekend following a regular season sweep of Texas Tech during her postgame press conference at Marita Hynes Field.
The Sooners had just clinched a share of the Big 12 championship, and Sooner pitchers Kelsey Stevens and Shelby Pendley had each come off their best outings.
With OU captain Lauren Chamberlain back in the lineup, Gasso admitted the Sooners were firing on all cylinders. But this was no time to let up.
Gasso was even cagey about even mentioning the Sooners had clinched their third straight Big 12 banner.
"I will talk about it, but I really don't want to until we outright do it," Gasso said. "There are no celebrations going on because this team doesn't want to share anything. When they get that next one is when you'll feel it a little bit more."
The Sooners (43-10, 14-2) will have two opportunities to win the title outright against Oklahoma State (26-26, 5-11) in the conclusion of the Bedlam series.
The first comes at 1 p.m. at Cowgirl Stadium in Stillwater. The second will come at 2 p.m. on Mother's Day at Hynes Field. Oklahoma took the first game in the series 2-0 on April 2 in Norman.
The Sooners were nearly a month into their hot streak when they last faced the Cowgirls, and have won 25 of their last 27 games dating back to Mar. 15. Of Division I teams, only Louisiana-Lafayette has won more games in the same stretch, having lost just one of its last 27 games.
Stevens might also receive an opportunity to take over first place as the winningest pitcher in Division I this year. She sits tied for first place with a 31-7 record heading into Bedlam. She'll certainly have help from an utterly offensive lineup.
With two of the better hitters in the conference over the last two years in Pendley and Chamberlain, the Sooners look poised to finish with a sweep the Cowgirls. Chamberlain said this game is important for the Sooners' state of mind heading into the NCAA tournament next week.
"Personally and team-wise, I think it's important to feel good on our last weekend so we can get things going into postseason," she said. "I think it's important to have good at-bats and getting everyone clicking on the same page like we have been and just continue it and finish out strong and focus right now.
"I think it's crucial that we propel ourselves into postseason."
It bodes well for the Sooners to finish with back-to-back wins to end the regular season not only for practical purposes but because history would undoubtedly be on their side. In the four seasons Oklahoma has finished with just two losses in league play, the Sooners have managed to make the Women's College World Series three times.
Three of those seasons saw the Sooners finish second best in the conference. In the only year OU has won the Big 12 championship with two losses in league play, they brought home the program's second national championship.
Chamberlain doesn't want the team to get ahead of itself, though. She's taking it one out at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time.
"I think it's going to be fun going into that environment in Stillwater, and it's very important to get this first win so that we can close it out on Sunday," she said. "We have to get this first one done."