Sooner Softball Scorching Toward a 5th Straight Conference Crown


They say that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life, but the Oklahoma Sooner softball squad is making a strong case that winning the Big 12 is fast becoming a sure thing, as well.

Oklahoma, currently 9-1 in Big 12 play and winners of its last 10 outings, is threatening to run away with its fifth consecutive Big 12 Conference crown.

The 9th-ranked Sooners are two and a half games up over Baylor and three games better than Kansas with just eight games against Big 12 foes remaining in the 2016 season.

This year’s squad, which sports a 35-7 overall record, may not be the strongest in head coach Patty Gasso’s 21 seasons at Oklahoma, but it still ranks as one of the elite programs in college softball.

The Sooners will step outside of the conference this weekend to participate in a weekend tournament at the University of Tennessee. They will play a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday. OU will open the Tennessee Classic Tournament taking on host Tennessee in a game pairing ranked teams. The Volunteers are 33-11 this season and ranked 13th in the nation in the most recent ESPN/USA Softball Top 25 rankings.

OU will play Radford (29-16) in the second game of the Saturday twin-bill, and will end up with a single game on Sunday against Libscomb (19-17). Radford plays in the Big South Conference. Libscomb is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

The Sooners are 26-6 outside of the Big 12 this season and are a perfect 6-o in true road games.

A number of great players have come out of Gasso’s program during her time in Norman, but one position that always seems to remain elite is pitching. Sophomore Paige Parker is having another outstanding season. In 30 starts this season, Parker is 21-3 with a league-leading 1.78 earned run average. A year ago, she was 28-7 in her freshman season.

Parker followed two-time National Player of the Year winner Keilani Ricketts as the Sooners ace in the pitching circle. Three times already this season, Parker has been named Big 12 Pitcher of the Week.

Some who follow college softball closely, and the Sooners in particular, were wondering coming into the current season how Oklahoma would respond to losing two outstanding players in Lauren Chamberlain, the NCAA and OU career leader in home runs, and Shelby Pendley.

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The 2016 Sooner softball squad quickly put those concerns to rest. Freshman Shay Knighten, who, like her predecessor at first base, Chamberlain, hails from California, this week was named Big 12 Player of the Week as well as a finalist for the 2016 Schutt Sports/NFCA National Freshman of the Year.

Knighton, who has played at second and first base this season, along with designated hitter, leads OU in home runs with nine this season and is second on the team in batting average (.396), slugging percentage (.712) and runs batted in.

And Knighten isn’t the only Sooner freshman who is a finalist for college softball’s top freshman this season. Third baseman Sydney Romero, also from California, is also up for the award. She is tied for the team lead in runs and triples (3) and is second in hits (50), doubles (12) and total bases (82).

Oklahoma is a lock again this season for postseason play. And we have come to expect that from Patty Gasso’s teams. The Sooners have been to the postseason in all 21 years that Gasso has been in Norman. In 10 of those season, OU made it all the way to the Women’s College World Series, including winning it all in 2000 and 2013.

Expect the Crimson and Cream to make another strong run at a national title again this year, and why not, with the WCWS being staged again this year at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.