Oklahoma Softball a Win Away From a Third National Championship


April 2 was not a particularly good day for Sooner sports teams. That was the day the OU men’s basketball team suffered a huge loss to Villanova in the Final Four. That same day the Oklahoma softball team lost at home to Kansas.

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That was clearly a day most Sooner fans would rather not relive or remember. But that dreadful day in Sooner sports history also is of historic significance for another reason: It was the last time the eight-time Big 12-champion OU softball team lost a game this season.

Forget the bad times, however, and get ready to strike up the band. The Sooners are on the verge of bringing home another national championship trophy, this one in the sport of softball.

After falling 5-2 to the Kansas Jayhawks, Oklahoma began a winning streak that has now reached an unprecedented 31 games, two games better than any previous Sooner softball team. The bottom line is that OU softball has gone more than two months since it has had to endure a loss and that includes a perfect record of 9-0 in the 2016 postseason.

The Sooners 31-game win streak is the longest in OU softball history and the longest in the NCAA this season.

One of the concerns coach Patty Gasso had when her freshman- and sophomore-laden squad entered this season’s Women’s College World Series was how they would handle adversity, recognizing that they have rarely trailed an opponent during the streak and have not experienced a defeat in over two months. All but one of their four WCWS wins have been close at the end, but the Sooners have shown great resiliency and managed to weather the storm in each instance.

“I keep telling these guys, defense wins championships, but they don’t believe me sometimes.” —Patty Gasso, Sooner head coach

Freshman first baseman Shay Knighton has been a prodigious offensive contributor this season, but on Monday in the Women’s College World Series championship series it was her defense that was the big difference in the Sooners’ 3-2 win over Auburn. Knighton has a team-high 13 home runs on the season and two in this WCWS, but it was a great fielding play and her alertness on defense in the top of the seventh inning against Auburn that preserved an Oklahoma victory.

Knighton snared a sharply hit ground ball with runners on second and third and only one out and, instead of tagging the batter charging down the baseline to first, she fired a strike to the plate to Sooner catcher Lea Wodach, who applied the tag to Auburn’s Casey McCrackin, attempting to score the tying run from third.

OU pitcher Paige Parker then got the next Auburn batter, leadoff hitter Tiffany Howard, to pop out to third baseman Sydney Romero, yet another first-year player for the youthful Sooners, to end the game and preserve the one-run victory.

“These guys have to deal with me every day on defense,” Gasso remarked to reporters after the game. “I keep telling them defense wins championships, but they don’t believe me sometimes.”

Now OU is in line to be the only 2016 NCAA Division I postseason team to end the season with a victory – actually 32 of them in a row, if it wins tonight – and a championship trophy. A victory over the No. 4-seeded Auburn Tigers in game two of the championship series will give the Sooners their third national championship in softball and second in three years. It would also  make Oklahoma only the third Division I school to win at least three national titles in the sport.

Here are a few other relevant factoids that you may not be aware of:

  • The Sooners’ current 31-game win streak is the longest in Division I softball since Florida won 37 games in a row in 2008.
  • Oklahoma is 8-0 against teams from the SEC this season and 3-0 all-time vs. Auburn.
  • Sydney Romero’s game-winning home run in the third inning Monday night against Auburn was the freshman third-baseman’s fourth round-tripper in her last six games.
  • Oklahoma has hit a home run in its last 10 Women’s College World Series games.
  • Sooner pitcher Paige Parker has 37 wins on the season, second most in OU softball history. She has not lost a game in 27 consecutive appearances. She has pitched every inning in every game for the Sooners in the 2016 WCWS.
  • Oklahoma has a 21-14 all-time record in the WCWS. The Sooners’ 21 victories is the sixth best in NCAA history.