Can anyone stop the 2023 Oklahoma softball juggernaut?
The top-ranked and No. 1-seeded Oklahoma softball team is on a mission, and through 52 games this season, it doesn’t appear that anyone is going to derail this train from its destination or its destiny.
The two-time defending national champions are on a record-setting pace, having won 43 consecutive games, which is already an OU program record but is only five away from breaking the all-time NCAA Division I record of 47 consecutive games.
Thirty of the Sooners’ 51 wins this season have been by shutout and 24 have not made it the full seven innings because then ended earlier by run-rule. The only team to beat Oklahoma this season was Baylor back on Feb. 19, and that was just by one run, 4-3.
Oklahoma has outscored its opponents by nearly 400 runs and by an average of close to eight runs a game (8.13 to .85).
History, records of no concern to Patty Gasso’s team; winning is their focus
Head coach Patty Gasso, in her postgame interview comments following the Sooners’ win over Texas in the Big 12 Tournament championship, said her team doesn’t worry or concern itself with consecutive-game streaks or records, all they are concerned about is winning and taking each game as it comes.
Winning is what the Sooners are all about this season, and they have been able to do so in dominant fashion. As a team, Oklahoma leads all of Division I softball in the three most important aspects of the sport: No. 1 in hitting, No. 1 in pitching and No. 1 in fielding.
When you have those three categories going for you, you aren’t going to lose many games, if any. There is not an easy out anywhere, one through nine, in the Oklahoma lineup. The Sooners three primary starting pitchers have been lights out all season. And OU does not beat itself with costly errors (the Sooners have committed just 15 errors all season.
One almost unbelievable pitching stat is about as telling as it gets in describing how really good this 2023 Sooner softball team is. The OU pitching staff has struck out 390 batters this season. That’s 42 more than the total bases (348) the Sooners have allowed to its opponents.
While anything can happen and does in postseason play — we’ve already seen one clear-cut favorite this year (South Carolina) fail to make it to the last hurdle in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament — it’s going to be doubly difficult to keep OU from reaching the Women’s College World Series and from its mission of winning a third consecutive national championship in softball. Only one other school has accomplished that feat (UCLA in 1988-90), and it’s looking more and more that Oklahoma is going to become the second.
Double elimination makes it even harder to dethrone the national champs
All postseason games from now on — through the regional and super-regional round and into the WCWS follow a double-elimination format, which means a team or teams are going to have to beat the Sooners twice, something no one has been able to do this season.
To add to the degree of difficulty opponents of No. 1-overall seed Oklahoma will face this postseason, the Sooners have not lost in the regional round since 2019 and haven’t lost in the first round of a regional since 2017. The last time OU failed to make it out of a softball regional was in 2009.
The Sooners will begin 2023 NCAA postseason play on Friday as hosts of the Norman Regional. OU’s opening-round regional opponent will be Hofstra (29-25). The Pride earned its spot in the NCAA Tournament by defeating Towson in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game.
Of the 16 national seeds in the 2023 NCAA Softball Championship, the Sooners have played and beaten 10 of them this season.
Oklahoma will play the winner of the opening-round regional game between Missouri (34-24) and California (33-19). OU actually has a losing record (7-11 and 2-3 in postseason play) in the all-time series with Cal. The Sooners are 54-41 in the all-time series against former Big 12 foe Missouri.
If Oklahoma makes it out of the Norman Regional, as highly expected, the Sooners will host the winner of the Clemson Regional in the Super Regionals. The teams competing in the Clemson Regional are No. 16-seeded Clemson, Cal State Fullerton, Auburn and UNC-Greensboro.