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Concerns and surprises for the Sooners as the second half of the season begins.

OU softball: Surprises, concerns for Sooners in second half of season

At about the halfway mark of OU’s softball season — assuming a deep Women’s College World Series run — it’s time for a mid-season check-up on the Sooners.

OU continues its season with a three-game series at Kansas, the Big 12’s surprise team, beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday. The second game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday, followed by the finale at noon Saturday.

Here’s a look at three surprises from the Sooners in the first half of the season, two things the Sooners need to win a third consecutive WCWS title and who is the biggest threat to OU’s dominance:

Three surprises so far for OU softball

A stunning loss: This is the surprise that shouldn’t really be a surprise.

OU’s dominance on the diamond made it easy to believe that rolling off wins the way they have the last few years is normal. But it was still stunning when the Sooners’ Love’s Field opening weekend wrapped up with a 7-5, eight-inning loss to Louisiana on March 3.Since the loss, OU has won 13 consecutive games by a combined 137-16, winning eight of the games in five innings.

Freshman duo of Ella Parker and Kasidi Pickering: Ella Parker and Kasidi Pickering have seamlessly shifted into the Sooners’ lineup, combining to hit .417 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs.Sooners know 'they're good' but 'want to be great' as OU softball's season  nears | Sports |

That the Sooners recruit at a high level isn’t a surprise, but the way they’ve seemingly effortlessly fit right in with the Sooners’ lineup has been.

The most surprising element of their games has to be Parker’s baserunning. She’s 11 of 12 on stolen bases. Another freshman, Maya Bland, has been the Sooners’ primary pinch runner this season and is 8 of 9 on stolen bases.

The Sooners have 40 stolen bases as a team. Last season, they had 53.

Pitching depth: The Sooners’ pitching was expected to be a strength with Oklahoma State transfer Kelly Maxwell and veteran Nicole May at the helm, plus transfer Karlie Keeney added to the mix.

But the emergence of Kierston Deal has a weekend starter, as well as the job Paytn Monticelli and SJ Geurin have done in spot work, has been particularly surprising.

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