By Corbin Hosler
CNHI News Service
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso has talked repeatedly about how important the bottom of the lineup is to the Sooners. She credits it for carrying the team when the top of the order isn’t performing, and there have been several game-winning rallies this season keyed by the last few batters.
Brianna Turang is at the heart of it all.
The senior has batted everywhere in the lineup in her four years at OU, and will again be called on to play a major role when the Sooners (50-4) meet Texas A&M (42-16) at 6 p.m. today in the first game of the best-of-three super regional.
Turang, who has batted leadoff in her career, has batted ninth for most of the season. On many teams that is a sign of a weaker hitter, but on this Sooners squad it is just the opposite.
The 2013 version of the Sooners is loaded, from top to bottom, a fact that Texas A&M coach Jo Evans went out of her way to acknowledge on Wednesday.
“From one to nine, this is the best lineup we’ve faced all year,” she said. “We understand how great their team is and we’re excited for the competition. We know we have to play a great regional.”
Turang is one of the major reasons the Sooner lineup is so scary. Because Lauren Chamberlain, one of the nation’s best hitters and a finalist for player of the year, hits at a such a high average Gasso moved her to the leadoff spot. But Chamberlain, who has 27 home runs this season, also has the most power on the team. That makes any hitter who can consistently get on base in front of her valuable.
That’s what makes Turang so valuable. She is batting .405 on the year and has as on-base percentage of .477. She is a proficient slap hitter who puts pressure on the defense and can beat out most infield grounders with her speed toward first base. The threat she presents forces defenses to play fast and has led to a number of errors this season.
While some batters may view the move to the bottom of the lineup as a demotion, Turang trusts her coaches and their ability to order the lineup.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wouldn’t choose anything else,” she said. “I think it’s awesome to hit before Lauren. Understanding your role is really important and I’m able to enjoy being part of it.”
She’s not the only one who does. Gasso has shaped the batting order to get the most out of her loaded lineup. And that includes putting Turang into a position where she can enjoy success.
“We love to pass the bat and keep the inning alive,” she said. “The bottom of the lineup does a great job turning it back over to the top. It’s been a total team effort.”