Oklahoma softball: Is this the beginning of the end of Sooner dynasty?


Earlier this season, it had been over a year and a half since an opponent had beaten the best of the best that was the Oklahoma softball team. In the span of one week, the Sooners have lost three of their last six games.

The three-time defending national champions have been virtually unbeatable the past three seasons, going 172-12 overall with just two losses in 54 regular-season Big 12 games.

The Sooners set an NCAA record, and by a bunch, with 71 consecutive wins between February 19. 2023, and March 3 this season. The previous record was 47, set by Arizona between 1996 and 1997.

Oklahoma has been ranked No. 1 all of last season and every week but two this season. The Sooners had won 40 consecutive games against Big 12 opponents before Texas beat them on back-to-back days last weekend. Ironically, the Longhorns were the last team to defeat OU ahead of the 40-game conference win streak. The two losses to Texas last weekend did not change Oklahoma's first-place standing in the Big 12, but it did drop them out of the No. 1 ranking, down to No. 2, in the Associated Press poll.

All of a sudden, Oklahoma's invincibility was beginning to show signs of vulnerability, prompting concerns among the Sooner faithful as well as the media.

The Sooners rebounded nicely from last weekend's series loss to Texas with a solid 7-0 midweek shutout victory over Wichita State and followed that with a second straight shutout in an 8-0 win over BYU in Game 1 of a three-game Big 12 series at Love's Field on Thursday.

Then in the middle game of the series on Friday, the Sooners were uncharacteristically overpowered and outpitched by a BYU team that had lost almost as many conference games (12) as Oklahoma had won (14). The Cougars handed the Sooners their first Big 12 loss at home this season in their new ballpark by a convincing 9-4 score. BYU outhit OU 11-8 with six of the 11 BYU hits going for extra bases. It was the first time all season that the Sooners had been outhit in a game.

Adding to the Friday night damage, three Oklahoma pitchers could not stem the bleeding as BYU scored in six of the seven innings. The Sooners never led in the game.

OU managed to win the series, their 57th Big 12 series win in the last 58 series, with a 7-3 victory in the rubber game on Saturday, but the last two Big 12 weekends, Oklahoma has not delivered the dominant performance we are accustomed to seeing the last several years.

Patty Gasso was very succinct in summing up Friday's loss: "We didn't have our game today," the Sooner head coach said in the postgame press conference. "There were a lot of things that didn't go right for us."

"We got outcoached, got outhit, got outpitched and got outplayed. Bottom line."

-Β OU head coach Patty Gasso

Because of their steady stream of championship success in recent years, Gasso said her team sometimes feels like they aren't allowed to have a glitch in their system. "Oh, my gosh, they've lost three games already?" she quipped with obvious sarcasm in her voice to make the point.

Gasso noted that this OU team is human like everybody else. Because of that they're not going to win every time out.

The Sooners have lost four games out of 42 played. Unfortunately, three of those defeats have come in the last 10 days, and all of the sudden social media is crying out that the sky is falling in Norman. Well, it's not.

Only one other team in Division I college softball (Duke) has as few losses as Oklahoma. Through games of this weekend. Oklahoma still leads the Big 12 with a one and a half-game advantage over Texas and two full games up on third-place Oklahoma State. The Sooners lead the Big 12 in hitting, pitching and fielding, as they have in each of their three consecutive national championship seasons.

Oklahoma leads all of college softball with a .381 team batting average, a .481 on-base percentage and a .987 fielding percentage. and the Sooners are second nationally in slugging percentage (.744) and scoring average (8.60).

Does that sound to you like a team that's crashing? The Sooners may even lose a couple more games before all is said and done this season, but I can assure all the naysayers out there that this is as good an Oklahoma team as any of the OU championship teams, and you can also be assured that they will be a factor to contend with when the postseason rolls around.