Oklahoma softball: Is this the best Sooner softball team of all-time?

OU softball coach Patty Gasso strikes a pose last June 20 after her Sooners won their fifth national title.JUMP
OU softball coach Patty Gasso strikes a pose last June 20 after her Sooners won their fifth national title.JUMP /

For the past dozen years, Oklahoma softball has been as close to a dynasty in the college sport as you can get.

Beginning with the 2012 season, the Sooners have compiled an overall record of 617-76, an .890 winning percentage, and are an even better 175-15 (.921) against Big 12 opponents. There isn’t much doubt that the other Big 12 schools will be happy to see Oklahoma and its bitter rival Texas take up future residence in the SEC.

And here’s the icing on the cake as far as national softball dominance is concerned: Over that same period, head coach Patty Gasso and her OU softball teams have won five national championships and twice been national runners-up.

With a 39-1 record to start the 2023 season, the No. 1-ranked Sooners appear to be on pace to make a seventh consecutive WCWS appearance and ninth in the last 10 years and are the prohibitive favorite as this point in the season to make it three straight College World Series titles, something that has been accomplished just once before (UCLA in 1988, 1989 and 1990).

The Sooners also won national championships in softball in 2000 and 2013, crediting the Crimson and Cream with six total, working on seven.

Oklahoma won back-to-back national championships in 2016-17 and again in 2021-22. Over that seven-year span, it seemed practically every season the question came up of whether this Sooner team was the greatest OU team of all-time.

We’re in another new season, and the question remains the same. Could the 2023 edition of Oklahoma Sooner softball be the best in program history and perhaps even the best ever in college softball history?

The best in college softball history is probably a stretch considering the historical success UCLA has enjoyed over the years (13 national championships with three in back-to-back years; between 1988 and1992, the Bruins won the WCWS in four of the five years).

So what is the argument supporting the case that the 2023 version of Sooner softball is the best ever? To begin with, a national championship is a prerequisite before any of the OU softball teams could raise a banner as the best of all-time. The 2023 team is not there yet but is in good position to do so.

Through 40 games, though, including 15 against ranked opponents, the Sooners as a team rank No. 1 in Division I college softball in seven major statistical categories: scoring (8.55 runs per game), batting average (.380), on-base percentage (.466), home runs per game (1.90), slugging percentage (.694), ERA (0.90), fielding percentage (.988 with just 11 errors) and won-lost percentage (39-1, .975).

If this 2023 Sooner team doesn’t beat you in the batter’s box, it certainly has the pitching arms to shut you down offensively and a defense that commits very few mistakes in the field. That kind of balance exists only among the very top teams, making them extremely difficult to defeat.

During the recent Oklahoma softball dynasty, these elite characteristics have been a common trait in the past five Sooner national championship seasons as well as in this year’s team.

Although the 2022 OU team finished No. 1 nationally and with the best Sooner softball record (59-3) since the 2013 team’s 57-4 record and with the top ranking in college softball in six of the seven statistical categories previously mentioned, the averages of the 2023 team rank higher so far in batting average (.380 to .374), ERA (0.90 to 1.05), fielding percentage (.980 to .988) and won-lost percentage (.975 to .952).

The 2021 Sooners had a higher team batting average, scored more runs per game and had a higher slugging percentage than either the 2022 or this year’s team (through 40 games), but pitching, based on staff earned run average, was a distant third by comparison.

The 2013 Oklahoma national championship team had a stellar 57-4 record and ranked No. 1 in Division 1 softball in scoring, slugging percentage, staff ERA and won-lost percentage, but those numbers were lower than the 2021, 2022 and 2023 Sooner teams.

Oklahoma has 11 regular-season games remaining in 2023, plus the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA postseason. That’s at least 20 more games, during which time much could certainly happen to alter the current snapshot in time.

If the Sooners continue to win this season, however, and maintain the same level of performance in all aspects of their championship-level play, the 2023 version of Oklahoma softball will ascend to the summit and lay claim to being the best Sooner team in a Sooner softball history brimming with greatness.