Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Softball: Sooners Take Home Half Big 12 Yearly Awards

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma took three of the five Big 12 yearly awards the conference announced on Tuesday as junior pitcher Keilani Ricketts was named the unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year, Lauren Chamberlain the unanimous Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Patty Gasso was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year for the fifth time in her career.

Ricketts is the eighth player in Oklahoma history to earn the Big 12 Player of the Year award while Chamberlain is the third to earn the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award. Gasso had previously been named the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2009. OU had previously won all three awards in the same year once in 1999 as Lynette Velazquez (Player), Jennifer Stewart (Freshman) and Gasso all reaped Big 12 awards.

In addition to the three awards, the Sooners placed four athletes on the All-Big 12 first team as freshman Georgia Casey and junior Jessica Shults joined Ricketts and Chamberlain on the team. Sophomore outfielder Destinee Martinez was named All-Big 12 second team. For Ricketts, its the third consecutive year to earn first team honors while Shults earned her second first team honor, having been named to the team in 2010. Martinez earned All-Big 12 honors for the second consecutive year after earning first-team honors in 2011. Casey and Chamberlain were the only freshmen named to the team.

Ricketts earned Tuesday's honor as the most dominant player in the Big 12, both at the plate and in the circle. At the plate, the junior led the league with an on-base percentage of .561 while finishing second in batting average (.400), slugging percentage (.823) and walks (46). In the circle, she led the league in wins (28), strikeouts (344) and opposing batting average (.152) while ranking second in earned run average with an ERA of 1.10, a number that ranks sixth nationally.

Quickly making a mark on the record books with her bat, Chamberlain broke the Big 12 single season record for home runs last weekend as she hit three shots against Iowa State to up her season total to 25, a number that currently ranks second nationally. Chamberlain also led the Big 12 in slugging percentage (.888), runs scored (54), runs batted in (63) and total bases (142). The freshman ranks eighth nationally in both slugging percentage and runs batted in and was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday, becoming the first freshman in Big 12 history to earn the honor three times in a season.

In her 18th year at the helm of the Oklahoma program, Gasso received her first Big 12 Coach of the Year honor since 2009 as her five accolades overall are the most by any league coach. Gasso now owns a career record of 1,022-338-3 while owning a record of 862-277-2 at OU.

Ricketts and Chamberlain are also finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award and join Casey and Shults on the first team All-Big 12 list.

Shults is ninth in the league with a batting average of .360 while ranking fourth in slugging at a clip of .713. The junior catcher is second in the Big 12 with 117 total bases and is third with 16 home runs and 59 hits while ranking fourth with 48 runs batted in. Defensively, Shults leads the Big 12 with 497 putouts and has gunned down 10 runners attempting to steal a base while picking off five others.

After missing the first 14 games of the year due to an injury, Casey quickly became a vital contributor to the Oklahoma lineup as she finished second on the team with a batting average of .392, ranking fifth in the Big 12. The freshman ranks third in the league with an on-base percentage of .480 and and a slugging percentage of .735. Casey finished the season with nine home runs and a fielding percentage of .953.

OU's lone second-team selection, Martinez was fifth on the Oklahoma squad with a batting average of .333. The speedy junior who started 38 of Oklahoma's 53 games in the leadoff spot, is tied for third in the Big 12 with 59 hits and leads OU with 16 stolen bases. The centerfielder holds a fielding percentage of .977 on the year.
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