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OU Baseball And Softball Early Season Success Promises Bright Spring In Norman

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

While things revolve around football season at Oklahoma, the diamonds are sparkling in 2013 for the Sooners.

The Oklahoma softball team is ranked No. 1 in the nation at 15-0, rolling over almost every opponent it has faced so far this season. The biggest testament to the Sooners' dominance is their 7-0 record against ranked opponents. Not only have the Sooners won every game against ranked foes, but they've shut every one of them out, outscoring teams 47-0.

That's the definition of dominance, and it has come during the toughest portion of Oklahoma's schedule. Based on this week's poll, the Sooners only face four more ranked teams the rest of the season. The Sooners face Nebraska twice this weekend, then Arizona at the Judi Carman Classic in mid-March before taking on Baylor and Texas in three-game series in conference play.

The expectations for a team returning every starter from last season's national runner-up team were championship or bust at the beginning of the year. This incredible start has done nothing to temper thoughts of a second national championship for the program. The Sooners boast power pitching and power hitting, a winning combination for any team. However, the combination becomes much more potent when it's several players, not just a single player, that make a lineup so dangerous.

As a team, OU leads the Big 12 with 22 home runs hit so far this season and sophomore Lauren Chamberlain leads the conference individually with eight homers of her own. Surprisingly, the Sooners are next to last in the conference in batting at .304, but average seven runs per game.

On the mound, OU leads the conference with a 0.85 ERA, giving up a ridiculous 14 total runs through 15 games. OU pitching has also struck out 166 batters so far this season 56 percent of OU's. It's not only star pitcher Keliani Ricketts either. Michelle Gascoigne has struck out 82 batters in 42.2 innings, while Ricketts 80 in 53.2 innings.

Over on the diamond with grass in the middle, the OU baseball team isn't looking too shabby either. OU is off to a 9-0 start and ranked as high as No. 10 in the country. The Sooners were picked to win the Big 12 in the coaches' preseason poll and so far, Oklahoma has done nothing to show those expectations were too high.

The Sooners haven't faced anyone of note yet this season, but that changes this weekend when Pepperdine comes to Norman. The Waves aren't ranked, but one of the top teams receiving votes in the polls this week. Next weekend the Sooners travel to Los Angeles to take part in the Dodgertown Classic. The Sooners will face USC, No. 11 UCLA and Notre Dame, who is receiving votes in many of the polls this week.

There will be plenty of talented opponents in conference play with Texas, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State all boasting quality teams, so the opportunities for Oklahoma to prove themselves as one of the elite teams in the country or a fraud are many.

Pitching is the strength of this OU team, with starters Dillon Overton and Jonathan Gray both boasting sub-2.00 ERAs through Oklahoma's first nine games. As a team, OU has a 3.18 team ERA. At the plate, Oklahoma has seven players that have started this season hitting .300 or better, led by Matt Oberste's .441 average. Oberste has also cranked three home runs and driven in 17 runs as part of his torrid start to the 2013 campaign.

It's very early in the season and there is much to prove, mainly for the baseball team. However, the early returns show there is quite a bit to be excited about in Norman. After a football season that left a lot to be desired, there's plenty of optimism surrounding a couple of diamonds in the spring.

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