Oklahoma softball: How three-peat worthy are the Sooners in 2023?

Oklahoma waits for Grace Lyons (3) after she hit a home in the sixth inning during the second game of the championship series in the Women's College World Series between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas Longhorns at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 9, 2022.Wcws Ou Texas Champ
Oklahoma waits for Grace Lyons (3) after she hit a home in the sixth inning during the second game of the championship series in the Women's College World Series between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas Longhorns at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 9, 2022.Wcws Ou Texas Champ /

The 2022 college softball season is now history, and the Oklahoma softball crew are national champions for a second consecutive season.

Can the Sooners make it a three-peat in 2023? They sure think they can.

The Oklahoma softball program finished off a wire-to-wire national championship run last week, winning the Women’s College World series in back-to-back seasons for the second time in the past six full seasons (the 2020 season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic)

The Sooners were far and away the most dominant team in Division I softball in the 2022 season. In 62 outings this season, the defending national champions lost just three times, including a 10-1 record in the postseason. It’s worth noting that all three of the Oklahoma losses this season were to teams that made it into this year’s Women’s College World Series.

Oklahoma’s 2022 winning percentage of .952 that currently stands as the third best of all time in college softball. Only 1992 UCLA (.964) and 1994 Arizona (.955) had better winning percentages.

In addition to fashioning one of the best winning percentages of all-time, this group of Sooner women led the country in a number of major offensive categories, including batting average (.371), home runs (155), on-base percentage (.474), slugging percentage (.734) and scoring (9.34 runs per game).

OU outscored its opponents by a whopping 514 runs (579-65). To put that into further perspective, only 10 teams had ever scored as many as 514 runs in a season before this season.

After Oklahoma’s WCWS-clinching win over Texas a week ago, head coach Patty Gasso, who has overseen all six of the Sooners’ national championships, was asked the inevitable question by reporters of where she thinks this team ranks among the school’s and the sport’s all-time best.

"“I’m going to let you decide,” Gasso said. “You guys have the stats and all that stuff. I could rank them very, very high, if not the highest, because everything they do looks so easy to me, and they do it so fast.”"

Oklahoma losses five super seniors from this year’s team, most notably Jocelyn Alo, the NCAA career record-holder in home runs and several other college softball records, and pitching ace Hope Trautwein, who posted the country’s second-best earned run average (0.77) in the 2022 season.

The Sooners will also need to replace two starting corner infielders, Jana Johns at third and Taylon Snow at first, as well as catcher Lynnsie Elam. Shortstop Grace Lyons and utility Grace Green, a former starter, could also be gone, but both still have an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season.

All of these are big losses, but because of all the success Oklahoma softball has generated under Gasso’s lengthy leadership, the Sooners are in the enviable position of being able to reload the talented roster instead of being forced into rebuild mode.

Following the 2020 COVID season, for example, Gasso recruited the top two recruits in the 2020 national class in No. 1 Jayda Coleman and No. 2 Tiare Jennings. Both have been top contributors in OU’s back-to-back national championships and have been among the national leaders offensively.

And the Sooners have another outstanding class coming in for next season, including another overall No, 1 in pitcher Kierston Deal from Winston Salem, North Carolina. Oklahoma was also successful in landing the No. 6 recruit in the 2022 class in infielder Avery Hodge from Richmond, Texas.

Filling out the Sooners’ freshman class for next season are Jocelyn Erickson, a utility player from Phoenix, Arizona, ranked as the No. 10 player in the class by Extra Inning Softball, and left-handed pitcher SJ Geurin, from Leander, Texas, who Extra Inning Softball ranks as the No. 7 pitching prospect in the class and the No. 20 player overall.

Oklahoma had one of the best pitching staffs in all of college softball last season. Sooner pitchers combined for eight no-hitters and 33 shutouts during the 2022 national championship season.

The 2022 Sooner staff produced the nation’s best earned run average (1.05), led by Trautwein’s .77 ERA, second-best among Division I pitchers. Here’ s the bad news for OU’s opponents next season: The Sooners return Jordy Bahl, the 2022 National Freshman of the Year, and Nicole May. Bahl and May ranked fifth and 10th nationally in ERA this past season.

If that isn’t already a strong pitching core for 2023, the Sooners are adding two top recruits in Deal and Geurin plus Michigan transfer Alex Storako, the 2021 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. Storako, who throws from the right side, compiled a 25-8 record for the Wolverines this season. She appeared in 38 games, 29 of those in a starting role, with a 1.71 ERA and a career-best 300 strikeouts.

At the end of June, the Sooners learned that former All-Pac-12 shortstop Alynah Torres is transferring to OU from Arizona State.  With Grace Lyons expected to return as the Sooners’ starting shortstop, Torres likely will be moved to third base, replacing Jana Johns. And this past week, Oklahoma picked up another Arizona State player, Cydney Sanders, who was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year this past season. Sanders plays first base and will likely replace Taylon Snow at that spot.

Asked after OU’s WCWS-clinching win over archrival Texas, catcher Kinzie Hansen, who will return for her senior season in 2023, was quick to respond.

“We’re going again next year,” Hansen said.

The truth is, there isn’t really any reason to expect anything different from this Midwest softball powerhouse.

Jocelyn Alo, the home run queen of college softball, also had some thoughts on the Sooner legacy and the team’s chances of returning to the throne room again in 2023.

"“One thing about Sooner softball — and I’ve seen it year in and year out (for five consecutive seasons) — is they just continue to get better,” Alo said after OU’s fourth national title in the past six seasons (they were runners-up the other two years).“I don’t know what next year holds, but I know they could make a run for the best team, too.”"

“The expectations are always there,” Patty Gasso said. And for the past decade, the Sooners have been able to deliver on those high expectations seemingly every season.

Is the 2022 Oklahoma softball team the greatest of all time? The historians will have to decide the answer to that question. Whatever they decide, however, there is little question that the Sooners’ 2022 performance is up there up with the very best ever.