Oklahoma’s next step on the road to the Women’s College World Series begins tomorrow when they host Clemson for the Norman Super Regional. The Tigers have an absolute star in Valerie Cagle but the OU Roster is also stocked with All-American talent. After breezing through the regional round last weekend this will be a series that could prove to be more of a challenge for the Sooners. Here’s what OU must do in order to punch a ticket to Oklahoma City.
Keep The Bats Hot!
Oklahoma’s lineup is powerful but the Clemson pitching staff is no joke. Led by Cagle’s 25-6 record, built on the foundation of 186 strikeouts, the Tigers have a staff that averages a 1.35 ERA. Still though, the Sooners blasted their way through the regionals with 38 runs scored, three victories by run-rule, and sending the ball out of the park 10 times in three games.
The Sooners need to keep to the status quo and they’ll be just fine. Oklahoma has scored double-digit runs 19 times this season and has produced a nation’s best 445 runs scored, at a pace of 8.24 runs per game. As a team the Sooners have gone yard 104 times this season and produced 108 doubles. Those are the type of stats that would make any pitching staff pause for a moment as they step into the circle.
OU saved its best performance of the regionals for the final when it tied an NCAA Tournament record with six home runs against Cal on their way to a 16-run performance. Four of those home runs came in the first inning! If they are able to jump out on the Tigers in a similar manner then it would absolutely be problematic towards Clemson’s hopes of making a trip to Oklahoma City next weekend.
Remain Consistent From The Circle
The first thing that people often comment about when it comes to Oklahoma Softball is the offensive firepower. However, it’s been dominance from the pitching circle that’s been the catalysts behind the last two titles (“G” Juarez/Jordy Bahl). Now Patty Gasso is enjoying possibly the deepest rotation that’s she’s ever had at Oklahoma and, like the offense, the ladies in the circle just need to keep doing what they do.
As a staff, Oklahoma’s ERA is 0.83. Nicole May leads the crew, with a 0.57 ERA, followed by Alex Storako (0.93), and Jordy Bahl (1.10). The three of them have combined for 379 strikeouts on the season to just 77 walks and 44 earned runs. Clemson is going to counter that with an offense that averages 6.14 runs per game. Led by Valerie Cagle (.467 BA/19 HRs) the Tigers are batting .315 as a team and have cranked out 77 home runs on the season.
Oklahoma didn’t surrender it’s first run during the regionals until the third inning of the final against Cal. The Sooners surrendered three runs in that frame but it was the only inning through the entire weekend of softball that an opponent scored on them. If they get out of the Super Regional having only surrendered three runs then it would have been a very good weekend once again.
Don’t Let Cagle Get Control
Be it from the plate or from the circle, Oklahoma has to put pressure on Valerie Cagle. One of three finalists for the National Player of the Year, she is Clemson’s do everything player. She’s both the ace pitcher and the power hitter. She’s the biggest reason the Tigers have made it this far and she’s the best hope of them advancing.
Win Game On Friday
This is pretty much the Captain Obvious moment of the post but Friday is crucial. All of the pressure coming into the weekend is on Clemson. They’re they underdogs playing on the road against the two-time defending national champions. Friday afternoon is crucial towards that pressure growing or switching dugouts. A win for the Sooners would mean that Clemson would have to defy the odds two times in two days in order to pull the massive upset. Should Oklahoma stumble, it would mean that the Tigers would only have to win once more on either Saturday or Sunday with the pressure moving to the Sooner dugout to complete the two-game sweep through the remainder of the weekend.
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