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Patty Gasso: Architect of the Oklahoma Softball Factory

When Patty Gasso was hired as Oklahoma’s softball coach in October 1994, it didn’t take long for her Sooners to become large and in charge. Once the opening became available after Jim Beitia left Norman to become Tennessee’s coach, Gasso (then head coach at Long Beach Community College) said her “eyes got big” when she heard about the vacancy at OU.

“I knew they were starting to build, starting to get things going,” Gasso said. “I always had a dream to go to the Division I level. I knew OU was the place I could be successful at.”

She wasn’t wrong.

 

In 1995, her inaugural season, the Sooners placed second behind Oklahoma State in the Big Eight Conference. There was no postseason tournament in the league as the regular season determined the champion. 1995 also happened to be the last year of the Big Eight before both teams merged into the Big 12 Conference. In ’95, Oklahoma defeated the Cowgirls in the NCAA Regional but failed to advance after losing twice to UNLV.

The following year, the first in the Big 12, Gasso’s dominance in softball began. The Sooners won the league’s regular-season and postseason tournament. OU has won the regular-season title 13 more times and the tournament six more times while winning both the regular season and tournament crowns in the same year four separate times (1996, 2017, 2018, and 2021). The Sooners have placed second in the tournament four times. No tournaments were held between 2011-16 and heavy rains washed out the second day of the 2019 Big 12 Championship, and no champion was crowned. Then, the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, in theory, the Sooners have won every Big 12 Tournament held dating back to 2010.

 

Oklahoma’s sovereignty reached beyond the Big 12 in Gasso’s sixth season. In the 2000 Women’s College World Series championship game, the Sooners defeated defending champion UCLA to claim Gasso’s first national championship. Since then, OU has made 13 more appearances in the WCWS, and the Sooners have won four of the last eight national championships (no series was held in 2020 due to the pandemic). They captured the title again in 2013, then back-to-to-back in 2016-17 and 2021.

Gasso has coached her Sooners to a 48-1 record this year, and they have ridden atop the softball ratings since the beginning of the season. Oklahoma’s only loss was a 4-2 setback to Texas on April 16.

Oklahoma State (38-12, 14-4 Big 12) and Texas (37-16-1, 12-6) appear to be the greatest threats to knock the Sooners off their perch in the Big 12 tournament. The Cowgirls are ranked ninth nationally after dropping a three-game set to OU last weekend in Norman, while the No. 16 Longhorns lost two of three to the Sooners in Austin last month.

 

The Sooners get a first-round bye in this week’s tournament and will square off on Friday against the winner of Iowa State-Baylor and if they get by that game, they’ll likely meet OSU or Texas in the championship game.

It doesn’t get any easier from here on for Oklahoma, but the Sooners have proven they can take on the top teams in the country when they move into the regionals the next two weekends and the WCWS in early June.

This year, OU has faced nine ranked opponents, won eight, and outscored those teams by a combined 60-20.

That’s scary enough to make any foes’ eyes get big.

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