Big 12 Campus Correspondent
When freshman Lauren Chamberlain came to Norman, she was set on fighting for a spot in the Oklahoma starting lineup.
She ended up chasing the school's home run record.
In just her first season of college ball, Chamberlain has already broken OU's single season home run record with 22 long balls through May 6. The freshman's 22 homers lead the Big 12 and are two shy of the conference's record.
Chamberlain's credentials have been noticed nationwide, where she ranks third in the home runs. One of three Sooners named to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Finalists list, Chamberlain was the only freshman in the nation to make the prestigious 25 player list.
A native of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., Chamberlain entered the year looking to contribute in any way possible.
"My goal coming into this season was to be in that starting lineup," said Chamberlain. "I wanted to get in there and swing the bat. I was willing to play wherever they wanted me to in the field. I wanted to come in and be a sudden-impact player and help our team get to the championship."
Lucky for Chamberlain, she already had a friend waiting in Norman to help ease the transition. Junior Jessica Shults, who currently sits second on OU's career home runs list, grew up with Chamberlain and played on the same travel team in high school.
"Shults is obviously a great a team leader," said Chamberlain. "She was a leader on our travel team as well. I take to heart any advice she gives me. Once I knew she was coming here, I became interested in Oklahoma. I knew then that OU must be a great school if she was coming here."
Having already played with Chamberlain, Shults already knew what type of player Oklahoma was getting before the season began.
"When we first met I was a senior in high school and she was a sophomore," said Shults. "We played travel ball together and I just knew right away that she could crush the ball. She was putting up big numbers as a high school sophomore and now she's doing it as a freshman here. It's been awesome to play with her here."
Piecing together her lineup, Oklahoma Head Coach Patty Gasso saw instant potential in Chamberlain and planned on moving the third baseman across the infield to first. Chamberlain welcomed the transition and saw it as a chance to improve and contribute.
"I was frustrating sometimes, but overall I was working toward a goal," said Chamberlain. "I looked at it positively. It took hard work and most of the fall I was working on different things at first, but overall it was an easy transition."
Once in the Sooner lineup, the freshman didn't take long to start turning heads around the clubhouse and around the league.
"She had instant credibility when she came in," said Gasso. "Once she started swinging, everybody took notice immediately. With this ability of her swing, also comes the ability of her to grab the attention of people and be a competitor. She backs up what she preaches because she works hard for what she gets. She is just a dream come true as a freshman, not just with her ability but who she is as a person. She's just so enjoyable every day."
Chamberlain has worked hard to fight her way to the top of the Sooners' record book, but she's the first to say that she couldn't do it alone.
"This team doesn't allow for you to just hover where you are," said the freshman. "You are constantly competing with your teammates. Each of them are bringing me up in different ways. I feel like we're always pushing each other to be the best athletes we can be. I owe a lot of it to my teammates."
With Chamberlain's name already on top of OU's list of home run champions, Shults isn't afraid to call out her teammate on other talent that Sooner fans are yet to have seen.
"She can sing," said Shults. "And she's good. Real good."
Call it freshman hazing or a rite of passage, but the upperclassman Sooners are determined to see their first baseman behind a microphone.
"The girls always give me a hard time because I can sing, I guess," said Chamberlain. "They're always telling me to sing. The seniors have even gotten onto me about not singing for their senior day. They asked me to sing the national anthem and I said no way. That's way too nerve racking. It's too scary."
Time will tell if Oklahoma ever sees Chamberlain sing before a ballgame, but Sooner fans can be assured that they'll see a special career from their home run queen.