Oklahoma softball: Greatest team in college softball history

Oklahoma celebrates the Women's College World Championship over Florida State at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June, 8, 2023.
Oklahoma celebrates the Women's College World Championship over Florida State at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June, 8, 2023. /

All season long, as the 2023 national champion Oklahoma softball team won game after game, most in dominant fashion, and set multiple records along the way, the debate emerged and proliferated among pundits and softball enthusiasts over whether this Sooner team was the greatest of all-time.

Initially, the debate was centered around:  Was this the best Oklahoma softball team ever assembled? Then, as the wins continued to mount and analytical measures bore evidence that the Sooners were the nation’s leader in virtually every major statistical category, the notion broadened beyond the OU program itself to softball GOAT status.

For anyone who witnessed what the Oklahoma softball team accomplished this remarkable season, both collectively and individually, there should be little question that this was the greatest single season by one team in college softball history.

Challenge me at your own risk, but the numbers don’t lie. If you are what your record says you are, as NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells often professed, Oklahoma’s 61-1 record and .988 winning percentage for the just-completed 2023 season speaks volumes. That sets a new NCAA single-season record, breaking the old mark of 54-2 (.964) set by UCLA in 1992.

Related Story. Sooners chasing multiple NCAA softball records, including GOAT. light

I broached this subject myself in an article earlier this season. I’m not fully aware of the particulars behind the three-year national championship journey of the UCLA team of 1988 through 1990, but it couldn’t have been any more impressive than the Sooners’ back-to-back-to-back national championship seasons of the past three years.

OU vs. UCLA national title three-peat seasons

As totally dominant as UCLA’s three consecutive Women’s College World Series championship titles were — and UCLA has 13 total national championship seasons to lead all Division I softball teams — none of those three late 1980s teams represented the Bruins’ best season ever by win percentage.

From 1988 to 1990, UCLA compiled season records of 53-8 (.869), 48-4 (.923) and 62-7 (.899), respectively. That adds up to an overall record of 163-19 (.895) over those three seasons. By comparison, Oklahoma has finished the last three seasons with records of 56-4, 59-3 and 61-1 for an overall record of 176-8 (.957), considerably superior to UCLA’s three successive championship seasons.

UCLA won six of its 13 national championships in the decade of the 1980s. Oklahoma matched that total over the past decade.

After losing 4-3 to Baylor on Feb. 19, the Sooners strung together 53 consecutive wins, which also smashed a previous college softball record. OU will carryover that win streak into the 2024 season. The previous high-water mark regarding consecutive wins had been 47, held by Arizona in the 1995-96 seasons.

OU ranks third all-time in terms of overall national championships behind the Bruins (13) and Arizona (8), but the Sooners are closing ground fast.

Here is the icing on the cake, however, insofar as Oklahoma’s claim of the 2023 Sooner team being the best college softball team of all-time. Before this season, no team in college softball history has led the country in runs, pitching ERA and fielding percentage in the same season. Oklahoma was No. 1 in all three categories this season. In addition, the Sooners led all of college softball this season in six other major statistical categories.

2023 Sooner softball team led the country in the following categories

Scoring:                         8.08

Batting average:        .366

Home runs:                  117

On-base %                   .456

Slugging %                   .666

ERA                              .97

Shutouts                     35

Fielding %                  .987

W-L %                        .984

In my book, at least, this all clearly adds up to not only the best team of the 2023 college softball season but the best team in the history of the sport.

ESPN’s college softball experts came up with a different assessment of the best college softball team of all-time. But that was two years ago. Several of the expert opinions are from former softball All-Americans who were on the ESPN broadcast crew for this year’s WCWS games.

You can judge for yourself whether their opinions might have changed after this season. I will just tell your their effusive comments about the 2023 Sooners during the WCWS championship series seemed to indicate a change of heart and mind.