For the first time in a long time Oklahoma will enter the 2019 softball season with a bunch of question marks. Gone are the aces in the circle, gone is the team captain, and shortstop, gone is one of the most reliable catchers in the nation. What remains is a drive to continue dominating the Big 12 and making regular appearances in Oklahoma City in late May, and those chances are far from gone.
There’s no way you can overstate the value of graduated seniors Paige Parker, Paige Lowary, Nicole Pendley, Lea Woodach, Hanna Sparks, and Kelsey Arnold. That said, you also can’t overstate the depth of this Oklahoma roster and the immediate impact recruiting has had.
From The Circle
Paige Parker was dominant from day one in Norman. She left the program as one of the most decorated University of Oklahoma athletes of all-time. During her last two seasons she enjoyed the luxury of having Paige Lowary come out of the bullpen, to close out games, or take a spot start here or there.
Both aces sported ERA’s that hovered south of 1.00 and both were instrumental in the Sooners running through the Big 12 with a perfect record. This one/two combo was one of the factors that allowed Oklahoma to dominate the national landscape and filling the void must be a priority.
Mariah Lopez and Parker Conrad move into the spotlight as pitchers in 2019. They’ll be joined by incoming freshman Brook Vestal (New Braunfels, TX) who had been ranked as the top prospect in the nation.
You would have to think that Lopez has the inside track to take control in the circle but Conrad showed in 2017 that she has more than enough potential to make a name for herself as well. Also, with the track record that Oklahoma has with freshmen success, you have to think Vestal is going to be given every opportunity as well.
In The Field
The Sooners have options for days in the outfield. Nicole Mendes has all the speed needed to change over from right field to center. Reagan Rogers is the most likely candidate start in right field.
The two biggest holes left in the field will be at shortstop and a catcher. Incoming freshman Grace Lyons (Phoenix, AZ) could very well step in and immediately take over at shortstop, but catcher isn’t quite as easy.
Finding a new backstop is just a crucial as finding new pitchers but the Sooners are currently limited in options. Lynnsie Elam caught a few games in 2018, as a freshman, and becomes the heir apparent to replace Lea Wodach but even if she produces an All American season Oklahoma needs to add depth at the position. Elam is currently OU’s only catcher on the roster.
From The Plate
Jocelyn Alo was spectacular as a freshman and she’s only going to get better. However, the ultimate downfall for the Sooners was that they couldn’t get timely hitting at the Women’s College World Series.
Shay Knighten and Sydney Romero join Alo as returning offensive threats in 2019 but don’t be surprised if Patty Gasso looks to her freshman class to see if she can’t replicate what she got from Alo’s historic 2018 season.
Audrie LaValley (Midwest City, OK) is a power hitter who bats from the left side of the plate. Grace Green (Oakdale, CA.) can put the ball in play to just about anywhere in the field, and Sammi Skelly (Lone Grove, OK) has cleanup type power from the plate.
There’s no doubt that 2019 will usher in a new era of Oklahoma Softball. However, it looks to be just as promising as the most recent era.