Patty Gasso is one of a kind, and OU softball has been the giant benefactor

Patty Gasso, USA TODAY's Women of the Year honoree from Oklahoma, at the Marita Hynes Field at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Softball Complex in Norman, Oklahoma, Thursday, December 1, 2022.LEDEPatty Gasso 03
Patty Gasso, USA TODAY's Women of the Year honoree from Oklahoma, at the Marita Hynes Field at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Softball Complex in Norman, Oklahoma, Thursday, December 1, 2022.LEDEPatty Gasso 03 /

No. 1-ranked Oklahoma softball is guaranteed a spot in what will be the team’s 28th NCAA  Regional appearance in quest of what would be a third consecutive NCAA national championship.

And the Sooners, 49-1 this season, are the odds-on favorites to get the job done and become only the second team to win back-to-back-to-back national titles. The 2023 Oklahoma team is not just beating teams, they have been dominating them.

Among the Sooners 49 wins are 29 shutouts by the OU pitching staff and 22 run-rule victories. Oklahoma has outscored its opponents this season by an overwhelming 408 to 43 and is 20-0 against top-25 teams, including a three-game sweep over No. 6 Oklahoma State this past weekend.

Later this week will travel the short distance to USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in nearby Oklahoma City, which has become the Sooners’ home away from home over the past decade, for the Big 12 Tournament. Oklahoma, of course, is the No, 1 seed, having won its 11th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship and 15th overall.

This is the second year going with a single-elimination format in the tournament. OU receives a bye in the quarterfinal round on Thursday and will play the winner of the opening-round contest between No. 4 Baylor and No. 5 Iowa State on Friday. Ironically, it was Baylor that is responsible for handing OU it only loss of the season back on Feb. 19.

If the conference tournament goes according to chalk, the Sooners will see either No. 2 Texas or No. 3 Oklahoma State for a fourth time this season in the championship game on Saturday.

As Oklahoma gets ready to head into the postseason, in what is mostly double-elimination play, it’s hard to imagine any team getting the best of the Sooners twice in the regional of super-regional round, and it will be equally as tough in the Women’s College World Series — also in Oklahoma City, by the way. Oklahoma has been to the WCWS each of the last six years the national championship tournament has been held.

This is how dominant the Sooners have been in the postseason recently: Over the past nine years in which the WCWS has been played, OU has been there eight times, won the national championship five times (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2021 and 2022) and finished as runner-up once (2019).

For the last couple of years, Oklahoma has led the country in virtually every major statistical category. Pretty hard to beat a team that is the best in everything it does. That’s why in the last three seasons, the Sooners have a combined record of 164-8 and 50-2 in the Big 12.

The one constant through all of that — and, in fact, for the last 29 years of Oklahoma softball — is head coach Patty Gasso.

The numbers tell the story of Gasso’s enormous coaching success and career at Oklahoma. Fifteen Big 12 regular-season titles. Her Sooner teams have won six national titles in 14 WCWS appearances and twice she has produced back-to-back National Player of the Year winners and has three of the 10 overall finalists vying for this year’s honor.

Gasso has compiled an overall record of 1,445-345-2, a winning percentage of .807. She is not only the greatest softball coach in OU program history but could well be the greatest head coach in OU athletic history. When she retires, which she admits won’t be anytime soon, she is as well-deserving as any of the bronze statues that currently immortalize the four greatest Sooner football coaches of all-time, and some would say maybe more so.

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione is planning on Gasso going anywhere. The Sooner softball coach was just awarded a contract extension through 2028 with an annual salary of $1.625 million a year. She remains the highest paid coach in college softball. She will receive a base salary of $300,000 from the University. Another $825,000 comes from private donations. She gets a performance bonus of $150,000 if she wins the national championship.

Gasso’s life has been all about softball. She is a native Californian. She grew up in the Los Angeles area and played college softball at El Camino Junior College and California State University-Long Beach, where she was a talented shortstop (perhaps one of the reasons she has such admiration for senior captain Grace Lyons on the current OU team. Gasso has called Lyons the best college shortstop she has ever seen.)

Gasso coached at Long Beach City College for five years before coming to Oklahoma in 1995.

Her California connection and eye for talent have enabled Gasso to recruit well in that area, which is well known as a rich breeding ground for softball talent. Current examples of that on the 2023 roster are catcher Kinzie Hansen, second baseman Tiare Jennings, and pitcher Nicole May, all recruited by Gasso.

"“She’s the queen,” Castiglione told Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World in an interview recently. “Not just for softball,” he said, ” she is one of the remarkable coaches of our time.“Her record is extraordinary, and the level of success is virtually unprecedented.”The Oklahoma softball coach is genuinely one of a kind. To purposely transpose the words of the late University of Oklahoma president Dr. George L. Cross, Gasso has built a softball team and program that the university can truly be proud of, now as well as years to come."