NORMAN — The Oklahoma softball team returns three All-Americans from the team that finished as the Women's College World Series runner-up, but it's the newcomers who are stealing some of the preseason spotlight.
The No. 2-ranked Sooners, who open the season at 10 a.m. Friday in Phoenix against No. 21 Stanford, have eight new additions.
That group is highlighted by infielder Shelby Pendley. The sophomore transferred to Oklahoma after spending her freshman season at the University of Arizona, where she earned All-Pac-12 First Team honors. She will be immediately eligible to play and will likely open the season as Oklahoma's starting shortstop.
“Shelby is very athletic and versatile, so she helps solidify our infield at any position,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “She also has incredible strength at the plate.”
“The challenge for Shelby now is to learn our system and learn it quickly, which I don't think she'll have any problem with.”
Outside of Pendley, the Sooners' newcomers include seven freshmen — all of whom are Oklahoma natives. Gasso believes this group of freshmen can bring even more offensive ability to a deep and talented lineup.
“This freshman group has tremendous power,” Gasso said. “You ought to come out and watch batting practice, more balls are on the other side of the fence than in the stadium.”
When asked about the team's overall speed compared to last season's, Gasso said, “we're better. The freshmen are going to come in and bring quite a bit of speed, it's definitely something we've increased from last year.”
This group of newcomers joins an Oklahoma team that is already loaded with 13 returning letter winners from last season's 54-10 squad, including All-Americans Keilani Ricketts, Jessica Shults, and Lauren Chamberlain.