Oklahoma softball: D1 Softball’s way-too-early picks has OU back in WCWS in 2024

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. /

Not many college softball teams can lose arguably the best pitcher in Division I softball and expect to be right back in the thick of things the following season. But Oklahoma softball isn’t built like most teams.

The Sooners have featured a different mix of pitchers in all of their three consecutive national championship seasons. Two-time OU All-American Jordy Bahl, the Most Outstanding Player in this season’s just completed Women’s College World Series has entered the transfer portal and will be playing for her home state Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2024.

Giselle “G” Juarez (23-1) and Shannon Saile (17-0) combined in the circle to lead OU to the 2021 national championship in their final season of eligibility. A year ago Hope Trautwein, a transfer from North Texas finished with a 16-0 record in her final season of college softball and was a mainstay on the pitching staff of the 2022 national championship.

Bahl isn’t the only pitcher OU is losing. Alex Storako, a transfer from Michigan, was a perfect 18-0 in 18 starts this season. Storako’s eligibility ended, however.

With Bahl (22-1, .90 ERA) and Storako moving on, Nicole May, 18-0 this season with a .91 ERA, and Kiersten Deal, the No. 1 pitching recruit in the 2022 national class will assume the lead roles in the OU pitching rotation. And if past actions are a good predictor of future actions, you can expect head coach Patty Gasso to bring in another outstanding arm from the transfer portal to fill out the Sooner pitching needs for next season.

That may be the one concern facing Patty Gasso and the Sooners as look ahead to the 2024 season. Oklahoma returns seven members of its 2023 starting lineup in 2024, a lineup that finished No. 1 in the country in scoring, batting average. home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. So don’t expect much drop off offensively from OU when next season rolls around.

D1 Softball has issued a way-too-early projection on which eight teams will be in Oklahoma City a year from now in the Women’s College World Series and that organization says you can expect Oklahoma will be among them in what has become the Sooners home away from home. OU has appeared in each of the last seven WCWS, so why wouldn’t the three-time reigning national champs be considered part of the mix once again?

Interestingly, the Sooners faced at some point this past season all seven of the other teams that D1 Softball is forecasting will be among the last teams standing in college softball in 2024.

Oklahoma faced two of the teams in this year’s WCWS: Stanford and Tennessee. Also, during the 2023 season OU faced Clemson in the Super Regionals and also Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor as part of the Big 12 Conference season. The Sooners began the 2023 season with a 4-0 win over Duke, the final team the folks at D1 Softball are picking to make the 2024 WCWS field.

Oklahoma was 15-1 in 2023 against those seven teams. Baylor was the team that handed the Sooners their only loss in 62 games this past season, but the Sooners won three of the four games played against Baylor this season.

Obviously, this is way early in the process and a lot can happen in the coming months, not to mention during the course of the 2024 schedule to change all this crystal-balling. But if I were laying odds on how many of the eight teams D1 Softball is singling out at this time will actually make it to the WCWS in 2024, I’d give Gasso and the Sooners the best odds.