By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Heading into the Judi Garman Classic this week in Fullterton, Calif., Oklahoma can’t be described as anything less than cruising.
After a 1-0 loss to Nebraska two weeks ago, the Sooners have been on a tear. They have won five straight since then and outscored opponents 51-3 during that span. This week, they became the consensus No. 1-ranked team in the country for the first time in program history and are playing with what senior Jessica Shults called a “fire” after the loss.
That drive served the Sooners (22-1) well in victories over Houston, Drake and Northern Colorado. Now they’ll be put to the test against a tougher slate of competition, including No. 14 Arizona, in a five-game set that begins with a noon contest today against Pacific.
“With our team, going back to California is like taking half of our team home,” coach Patty Gasso said. “This is also our last tournament before Big 12 play starts, and we’re excited about getting out there where the weather is warm and playing some good teams.”
It’s an important weekend for Oklahoma, but an even bigger weekend perhaps for the Sooners’ latest star.
Transfer sophomore Shelby Pendley came to Oklahoma this year after earning All Pac-12 honors a year ago while playing at Arizona. Now, in the midst of a scorching hot streak and fresh off Big 12 Player of the Week honors, she’ll square off against her former teammates when the Sooners and Wildcats meet at 5 p.m. Saturday.
In the nine games played since Feb. 23, Pendley is hitting .789, recording 13 runs, 4 home runs, 14 RBIs and no strikeouts. Her emergence has been a major factor in the blowout victories the Sooners have secured in that stretch, with the setback against the Huskers being the only game decided by fewer than three runs.
“I’m just seeing the ball and trying to stay patient at the plate,” she said after hitting a pair of home runs last weekend. “This weekend has been a good momentum-builder.”
Part of Pendley’s success has come since coach Patty Gasso moved her up to third in the lineup last weekend. The change helped the Sooners to run-rule victories over Drake and Northern Colorado and it’s one Gasso will likely stick with to jumpstart the Sooners again this weekend.
“I just mixed it up because she’s hot,” she said. “This team, I can interchange for the most part in any way and be in a good place.”
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