Oklahoma softball: Three reasons Sooners will win magical No. 7

The OU softball team celebrates after receiving NCAA championship trophies Thursday night.Wcws
The OU softball team celebrates after receiving NCAA championship trophies Thursday night.Wcws /

For all but one week of the college softball season, the Oklahoma softball team has been ranked No. 1 in the country.

And that is the daunting challenge the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles face in going up against the Sooners in the 2023 Women’s College World Series championship series in Oklahoma City.

The one week the Sooners dropped out of the No. 1 spot, they regained the top spot the very next week after dismantling then-No. 1 UCLA by a count of 14-0 in five innings. Oklahoma hasn’t looked back since. One week before blowing out UCLA, the Sooners lost by one run to Baylor in a nonconference tournament game. It was OU’s first loss of the season after eight straight wins.

Oklahoma has not lost since that Feb. 19 meeting with Baylor, a span of 51 games and 108 days.

The Sooners’ current win streak is a new NCAA record. At 59-1, Patty Gasso’s formidable band of Sooners is on the verge of completing the best season on record in college softball history.

If OU wins its seventh national championship in softball– and fifth in the last seven seasons — by defeating Florida State in this year’s WCWS, the Sooners will set two more NCAA records: the best single-season winning percentage and the only team to lead Division I softball in runs per game, staff ERA and fielding percentage in the same season.

That’s a resume strong enough to claim the unofficial title of greatest college softball team of all time.

But the job is not finished. Oklahoma still needs to win two games against a very good Florida State team that is highly capable of upsetting the Sooners championship plans.

This Oklahoma team refuses to lose…and with good reason

Oklahoma ranks No. 1 in college softball in scoring, batting average, doubles, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, ERA and fielding percentage. That’s why they are able to win games 1-0 as easily as 14-0 or even 8-7. The Sooners don’t beat themselves. That leaves a very small margin of error for teams playing OU.

This Oklahoma team simply refuses to lose. They never believe they are out of a game. Even down to their final strike and trailing by three runs to Clemson in OU’s final at bat in the bottom of the seventh in this year’s Super Regional, the Sooners found a way to win.

Kinzie Hansen stepped up to the challenge, knocking a two-out, two-strike pitch from Clemson’s Valerie Cagle, this year’s National Player of the Year, out of the park, scoring three runs. One inning later, Tiare Jennings left the yard with the game-winning hit, completing a nearly miraculous come-from-behind 8-7 Oklahoma victory that sent the Sooners to the WCWS for the fourth consecutive season.

Greatest doesn’t take days off, says Sooner head coach Patty Gasso. “We’re never out of a game. No matter what. And we believe that.”

Outstanding pitching wins championships

Just as defense wins championships in football and basketball, good pitching trumps good hitting in softball and baseball. And Oklahoma is teaming with pitching talent.

Florida State has a strong pitching staff as well with two — fifth-year senior Kathryn Sandercock (1.05) and freshman Makenna Reid (.95) — ranking in the top 10 nationally in ERA. The Sooners, however, have three starters — Jordy Bahl (with three WCWS wins already), Nicole May and Alex Storako (with 21, 18 and 17 wins, respectively) — in the top eight and a fourth, freshman Kiersten Deal, who was the No. 1 overall recruit in the national 2022 class. Bahl and May both have ERAs under 1.00 and Storako is at 1.12.

Sooner pitchers have a nation-best 34 shutouts to their credit, 10 more than the next best team, and opponents are batting just .164 against the Oklahoma staff.

Most dangerous lineup, top to bottom, in Division I college softball

The Oklahoma starting lineup is the most dangerous, top to bottom, in Division I college softball. There is not an easy out anywhere among the nine starters. Rylie Boone hits ninth for the Sooners and carries a .387 average and a 1.006 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Five OU starters have batting averages above .400. An example of the overall balance and strength in the Sooner starting lineup, the last three hitters in the lineup are a combined 9 for 21, a 4.29 average, with three walks and three runs driven in in the WCWS No Florida State hitter has a batting average above .400. Redshirt-sophomore outfielder Jahni Kerr leads the Seminoles with a .357 average.

This OU lineup can hit for power and also play small ball if required. In addition to leading the nation with 115 home runs, Sooner hitters have also stroked 113 two-base hits. Florida State leads Division I softball with 122 doubles to go with 59 home runs.