What's gone south with Oklahoma Sooner softball down the stretch?


The wheels haven't totally come off of the previously dominant Oklahoma softball wagon, but they are clearly a little wobbly.

The Sooners staved off a mostly unheard of series sweep at the hands of Beldam rival Oklahoma State with an 8-2 victory on Sunday featuring a power explosion that we've become accustomed to from Oklahoma softball. Those power bats had been strangely silent in the first two games of the Oklahoma State series.

Credit Oklahoma State pitching for stifling the nation's best hitting team and limiting the lethal Sooner lineup to a combined five runs and eight hits with no home runs in the first two games of the series. OU was just 8 of 51 in the first two games for a .157 batting average. Even worse, the Sooners were just 3 of 26 (.115) with runners in scoring position. The three-time defending national champions came into the final weekend of the 2024 regular season with a team batting average of .372 and averaging eight runs, 10 hits and nearly two home runs per game.

The series win by Oklahoma State was OU's first series lost at home since 2006 and the first time OSU has won a series against the Sooners in Norman in over 30 years (1993). Oklahoma also lost a series in Austin in early April, and again, good pitching was OU's kryptonite.

It has been a long, long time since the Sooners have lost a series to Oklahoma State and Texas in the same season. To be completely fair, though, it has been a long, long time -- possibly forever -- since the Longhorns, Sooners and Cowgirls have been ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 4, respectively, in the country.

For the first time in four seasons, the most dominating team in college football is beginning to show increasing signs of vulnerability, and that has sparked concerns if not jubilation among fans that the Sooner softball dynasty is in decline. The biggest concern, obviously, is among Sooner fans, who have become accustomed to winning, winning big and winning often.

Oklahoma entered the 2024 season having won something like 54 of its last 56 series against Big 12 opponents. They have lost two series this season. But this is also the same team that earlier this season set an NCAA record that may never be broken of winning 71 consecutive games between last season and this one.

So why has Oklahoma suddenly found itself struggling and encountering the unusual number of close games?

"We're not playing complete games. There's places in the games when the pitchers are very, very good, then it'll collapse. Our defense can do the same. Our offense is going the same."

OU head coach Patty Gasso

The most noticeable decline has been in the offensive production, but the Sooners' normally strong pitching effort has shown inconsistency in recent weeks, and even the nation's best defensive team the last few years has not been its typical self. Oklahoma made a highly uncharacteristic six errors in the UCF series the week before Bedlam and two in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State.

About the offensive inconsistency, Gasso told reporters this weekend, "We're grounding out, we're popping up and everybody wants that timely hit, OSU got 'em, definitely," she said,

"We just not squaring the ball up like we used to. At the same time, we need to have more competitive at bats. We need to swing early. We need to swing hard. We need to think of, 'I'm not gonna get denied and pass the bat to the next person on deck.'"

Patty Gasso

Oklahoma leads NCAA Division I softball this season in drawing walks. That plate discipline may have hurt them this weekend when not swinging at pitches that were called strikes.

The Sooners head into the Big 12 Tournament this week as the No. 2 seed and an overall 46-6 record. Only one other team (Boston University, 46-4) has lost fewer games and has a better winning percentage this season than Oklahoma. The Sooners' six losses are two more than in the previous two seasons combined, and that has brought out the Chicken Littles within the Sooner Nation and elsewhere.

The reality is, however, this is still a very good and dangerous Oklahoma softball team, more than capable of beating any team in the country. What has made the Sooners the champions they are the past three seasons is their extraordinary ability to play complementary softball. That's why they have led the country each of the past twos season in the three fundamental areas of hitting, pitching and fielding

What is admittedly a bit concerning, though, is that many of the same Sooner players who were here the past two to three championship years are still on the roster.

The one player who isn't here this season but was the previous two and may be the biggest reason for the moderate drop off this season is two-time First-Team All-American pitcher Jordy Bahl, who entered the transfer portal after last season and is now at Nebraska. All she did in two seasons at Oklahoma is go 43-2 in the circle and win two national championships. You think Bahl, who is just a junior, might have made a big difference this year had she stayed at OU?

Bottom line: This is an Oklahoma softball team that has won 176 of 184 games the past three seasons, an extraordinary winning percentage of .957, and is 46-6 this season. You think there aren't 250-plus Division I teams that would love to trade places with them?

It's gonna be all right, Sooner fans. Contrary to popular concern, the sky isn't falling.