Oklahoma softball: WCWS championship series familiar ground for Sooners

Fans cheer before the first game of Women's College World Series championship series between University of Oklahoma (OU) and Florida State University at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
Fans cheer before the first game of Women's College World Series championship series between University of Oklahoma (OU) and Florida State University at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. /

Two team are left standing, and beginning on Wednesday, the 2023 national championship in softball will be decided between the No. 1-seeded Oklahoma softball Sooners and the No. 3 Florida Seminoles.

It is a reprise of the 2021 Women’s College World Series championship series won by Oklahoma in the first of the Sooners’ back- to-back national titles. The two teams will play a best-of-three series at ASA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City with Oklahoma seeking to become only the second team in college softball history to win three consecutive national championships.

The championship series, the center stage of the week-long WCWS, is very familiar territory for the Sooners. This will be Oklahoma’s fourth consecutive trip to the championship series and sixth in the last seven seasons the WCWS has been played. OU has made eight appearances in the best-of-three title series all-time and come away with the national championship trophy six times.

Florida State is appearing in the championship series for the second time in three years and the third time overall. The Seminoles won their only national title in softball in 2018, taking two straight games against runner-up Washington.

Both OU (59-1) and Florida State (57-9) enter the championship series with 3-0 records in this year’s WCWS. Along the way, they faced one common opponent. Both have victories over No. 4 Tennessee. The Sooners defeated the Volunteers 9-0 in a double-elimination contest. Florida State eliminated the Vols with a 5-1 win in the national semifinal round on Monday.

In its back-to-back national championship seasons in 2021 and 2022, Oklahoma outscored its WCWS championship series opponents by the combined score of 41-17. The eight runs by Florida State in the opening-game 8-4 win over the Sooners in the 2021 championship series was the most given up by the Sooners in the last two title series.

In the three games by OU and FSU leading into this year’s championship round, the Sooners are outscoring their opponents 15-2. The Seminoles’ championship run has been strikingly similar, scoring 16 runs to just two by their three opponents.

Oklahoma and Florida State faced each other earlier this season in a rare midweek contest between ranked opponents. The Sooners won that game, played in Norman, 5-4. OU leads the all-time series between the two teams 9-8.

The Sooners are probably happy to have seen the last of National Freshman of the Year NiJaree Canady in its two WCWS games against Stanford. In 10 innings against the high-powered Oklahoma starting lineup, the flame-throwing Canady allowed four runs on eight hits and struck out 13 of the 42 batters she faced in two games. No pitcher in the country has had that kind of success against the Sooners this season.

OU is going to face another top pitcher in the country in Florida State fifth-year senior Kathryn Sandercock. The veteran Seminole pitcher ranks fourth in the nation in 2023 in win percentage with a 28-3 record and is fifth nationally with a 1.05 ERA, just behind Oklahoma’s super sophomore Jordy Bahl (21-1), who was the winning pitcher in all three Sooner games in this year’s WCWS and owns a .97 ERA, fourth best in Division I softball.

Sandercock started the earlier game this season between OU and FSU. She worked the first two innings, giving up one run on three hits. Alex Storako was the starting pitcher for Oklahoma in that game, although Bahl worked 3.0 innings in relief.

If Oklahoma is able to win the championship series against the Seminoles and notch their seventh national championship in softball and third in as many years, the Sooners will do so with the best single-season winning percentage in college softball history. OU is currently at .983 (59-1). The best single-season record in NCAA softball history is currently held by 1992 UCLA (54-2, .964).

The opening game in the 2023 WCWS championship series is Wednesday starting at 7 p.m. CT. Thursday night’s game is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. and first pitch on Friday, if necessary, will be a 7 p.m. All games in the best-of-three championship series will be televised on ESPN.

2023 Statistical comparisons of OU and Florida State

(National ranking in parentheses)

OU                        Florida State

Runs per game                                   8.22 (1)                   6.09 (13)

Batting average                                 .368 (1)                  .306 (31)

Home runs                                          117 (1)                      62 (33)

Doubles per game                            1.88 (1)                   1.82 (3)

On-base percentage                       .458 (1)                   .402 (16)

Slugging percentage                       .672 (1)                   .504 (21)

ERA                                                      0.98 (1)                   1.59 (4)

Fielding percentage                       .988 (1)                    .969 (66)