Patty Gasso facing a major roster rebuild after 4 consecutive national titles

Jun 3, 2024;  Oklahoma City, OK, USA;  Oklahoma Sooners head coach Patty Gasso signals to her players in the fifth inning against the Florida Gators during a Women's College World Series softball semifinal game at Devon Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 3, 2024; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Patty Gasso signals to her players in the fifth inning against the Florida Gators during a Women's College World Series softball semifinal game at Devon Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports / Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

A talent surplus and roster stability have been prime ingredients in the incredible Oklahoma softball national championship stretch that spans six of the last eight complete seasons

And one of the two seasons (2019) over the last eight in which Oklahoma was not crowned the national champion, the Sooners were national runners-up.

So how does a team achieve that level of superiority. Good coaching, for sure, but also a rich recruiting pipeline that produces a steady flow of top talent that actually sticks around and lives up to expectations by delivering on the field.

Blending new blood with upperclass experience and leadership is what the Sooners have been able to do through a couple of complete class cycles incorporating both the best of the traditional high school recruiting process with top talent out of the transfer portal. The results speak for themselves.

The year's Oklahoma softball roster, however, included 10 seniors, five of whom had played each of the last four seasons and won four consecutive Women's College World Series titles. Those five seniors (OF Jayda Coleman, IN Tiare Jennings, C Kinzie Hansen, OF Rylie Boone and P Nicole May) compiled a program-best record of 235-15 -- a remarkable .940 winning percentage -- during their time at Oklahoma.

The Sooners also say goodbye after this season to pitchers Kelly Maxwell, a transfer from Oklahoma State and this year's WCWS Most Outstanding Player, Oregon transfer Alyssa Brito, Arizona State transfer Alynah Torres and pitcher Karlie Keeney, a transfer from Liberty, all of whom played key roles in OU's 2024 championship season.

In all, Oklahoma seven of the nine players who comprised the Sooner starting lineup most of the season.

Despite what appears to be a significant roster turnover, head coach Patty Gasso said after the Sooners WCWS championship win, 'the future is very, very bright." The basis for that optimism is a pair of freshman All-Americans who were key contributors all season, but perhaps the biggest reason why Oklahoma will be hoisting an eighth national championship flag at Love's Field nest season. Plus another outstanding recruiting class.

After losing a pair of games at home to Oklahoma State late in the regular season, the Sooners won 14 of their final 15 games. During those 15 games, designated player Ella Parker hit .510 with 18 RBI and four home runs. Fellow freshman Kasidi Pickering hit .421 (16 of 38) over the same period with 15 RBI, 10 runs scored and six hits that left the park.

Gasso was excited about the way her Killer P's performed all season, but especially down the stretch and in the WCWS. Sooner fans like to think of it as more of a reload than a rebuild, and Parker and Pickering will serve as core pieces in the process.

Oklahoma has historically done very well under Gasso in the portal and bringing in key transfers to fill areas of need. Perhaps the biggest target in the transfer portal this offseason is Stanford pitcher NiJaree Canady, considered the best pitcher in college softball the past two seasons. The Sooners are in need of another starting pitcher, and it will be interesting to see if they can pick up Canady, who is from Topeka, Kansas, and has two years of eligibility remaining.

Other players in the transfer portal that would be excellent fits at OU are Alana Johnson, a power-hitting outfielder from Washington who had a .336 batting average this past season with a team-high 13 home runs and 40 runs batted in. The Sooners are in need of a catcher, and Kailey Wycoff of Texas Tech is available in the portal. An All-Big 12 selection, Wyckoff hit .406 in the 2024 season with seven home runs.

Gasso also brings in another highly ranked and touted recruiting class for the 2025 season. The 2024 class includes eight signees. All eight rank in the top 25 of the Extra Innings Elite 100, including two in the top five, four in the top 10 and six in the top 15. Left-handed pitcher Audrey Lowry is ranked No. 2 nationally; Sydney Barker, a middle infielder from California, ranks No. 4; catcher/first baseman Corri Hicks is No. 7 in the Extra Innings Elite 100; and middle infielder Gabbie Garcia, out of Chandler, Arizona is No. 8.

The other four members of the OU class of 2024 are outfielder Chaney Helton, No. 11; middle infielder Kady McKay, No. 14; middle infiedler Tia Milloy, out of Washington state, No. 18, and catcher/infielder Riley Zache, a Michigan native, No. 21.

Needless to say, this is an impressive list of incoming freshman for the 2024 school year and pretty strong evidence why OU 2024 class ranked No. 1 in the Extra Innings class rankings.

If the 2024 class is as good on the field as appears on paper, and the Sooners can land a couple of the bigger prizes in the transfer portal, it's pretty easy to understand why coach Gasso is so optimistic about the Sooners' softball future.