Oklahoma softball broke pitches, records en route to NCAA title

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After winning games by 19, 20 and 21 points, Oklahoma softball put up a more subtle performance in Thursday’s win over rival Texas, a 10-5 win that secured a second national title back-to-back for a team whose accomplishments are extraordinarily vast.

Indeed, the figures make it possible to grasp the historical quality of this team.

This season’s journey to the school’s sixth national title spanned 62 games – 59 of them won and 41 ended by the clemency rule. He had 155 home runs, 33 shutouts and eight no-hitters – a reflection of his hitting prowess as much as the skill of his pitching team.

Along the way, star hitter Jocelyn Alo hit her 122nd career NCAA home run — and a host of other records. All-American Tiare Jennings set a Women’s College World Series record with 15 RBIs. And freshman phenom Jordy Bahl finished the year with a 22-1 record, 1.16 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 145 1/3 innings.

These statistics and superlatives have prompted questions about Oklahoma’s place among the best in school and sports history. Some players avoided straight answers after the win, but coach Patty Gasso turned the question around on curious minds.

“I’ll let you decide,” Gasso told reporters. “You have all the stats and stuff. I could rank them very, very high, if not the highest, because everything they do feels so easy to me, and they do it so fast.

Oklahoma has lost three games this season, including one to No. 18 Texas in mid-April and another to a top-10 Oklahoma State team a month later in the title game. Big 12. The latter, a 4-3 loss, was one of the team’s weakest results this season and marked the first time the Sooners failed to win the regular-season and tournament titles since 2012.

“This team is not happy with the loss,” Gasso said after the loss. “It’s something they always seem to bounce back even harder. They did that in Texas. They want to win championships. When somebody takes it from them, they respond.

Oklahoma responded once regionals began, crushing their next six opponents by a 113-11 margin – without a 7-3 loss to UCLA in Game 1 of the semifinals, which, on the brink of elimination , the Sooners got revenge with a 15-0 thrashing of the Bruins later in the day.

Why focus on losses? Because they are easier to count than records.

Alo was a prolific record reviewer at this year’s College World Series. Going into Thursday’s match, she already held at least five WCWS records — or shared them with Jennings. She is the only player in NCAA Division I softball history to lead the nation in home runs in three different seasons.

His team had more home runs, more total bases, and more runs scored than any other in a WCWS game. And that’s after the Sooners opened the season with a 38-0 record, the best start in Division I history. This season, the Sooners led the nation in batting average (.371), ERA (1.05), home runs per game (2.5), points per game (9.34) and slugging percentage (.734).

Between stars like Alo and Jennings, who led RBI’s Division I (Alo’s 85 was second and Grace Lyons senior tied for sixth with 70), Oklahoma’s firepower was a well-known commodity before this season. If there was a question of whether the team could repeat, it focused on its pitch after the program fired only one of its key pitchers (Nicole May).

But Gasso reloaded with Bahl, who was named an All-American this season, and Hope Trautwein, a transfer from North Texas who last year recorded the first perfect game in NCAA Division I history. All three are in the ERA top 10, led by Trautwein (second), Bahl (fifth) and May (10th). For her part, she took the 20-0 win over Texas A&M on May 22, which sent the Sooners to the super regional and marked the biggest margin of victory in NCAA tournament history.

UCLA became the only team in Division I softball history to win three consecutive championships between 1988 and 1990. Alo, one of five “super seniors” on the team after earning an additional year of eligibility due to the pandemic, part. But Jennings is a sophomore, as is Jayda Coleman, whose jumping flight helped clinch the school’s fifth title in the past nine World Series.

When asked where the 2022 Oklahoma softball team sits in the annals of softball history, Alo was more definitive than her teammates. But she left the door open.

“I would say as a senior I think they are the best team,” Alo said. “But one thing about Sooner softball, and I’ve seen it year after year, is that they just keep getting better. I don’t know what will happen next year, but I know they could also be a race for the best team.