Oklahoma softball has completed its near-perfect season by capturing a third straight national championship on Thursday night with a 3-1 win over Florida State.
With the win, the Sooners’ 2023 record will go in the books at 61-1 (.984), giving them the best winning percentage of any team in D-I softball history.
It wasn’t easy for Oklahoma though, as Kathryn Sandercock kept the Noles in this one throughout and even forced the Sooners to rally for the win.
Here are three thoughts after the win and what it means going forward.
After Falling Behind, Oklahoma Did What It Always Does… Respond
This game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, when Florida State’s Mack Leonard sent a 2-2 pitch over the right field wall to break the tie. At that point in the game, Kathryn Sandercock had kept the Sooners’ bats under control and Alex Storako was starting to get hit around a bit by Florida State.
The wind seemed to be out of the pro-Oklahoma crowd, and for a moment, it seemed as if the Noles might have the momentum.
Then, as they have all season, the Sooners responded in a big way. In the fifth, Cydney Sanders belted a 2-0 pitch over the right field wall to draw even, 1-1. Then, Grace Lyons, who hadn’t been effective at the plate this postseason, made her mark on the Sooners’ championship run with a solo shot to center field to make it 2-1, Sooners.
The Sooners added an insurance run in the top of the sixth, with pitch runner Jordy Bahl scoring on an Alynah Torres single, making it 3-1 Sooners. From there, Bahl controlled the game in the circle, leading OU to another title.
Records Broken Galore
Oklahoma’s run in 2023 has been historic in every sense of the word, taking the word dominance to an entirely different level. As mentioned before, the Sooners are just the second-ever team to win three straight national championships, joining UCLA in 1988, 1989, and 1990.
The Sooners’ .984 winning percentage is the highest ever in a single-season, with a 61-1 record to finish the year. Oklahoma is also the first team to ever finish with the top overall batting average, ERA, and fielding percentage in college softball history, which shows just how dominant they’ve been this year.
It continues from there though. OU has now won 53 games in a row, an NCAA record, building on the record they broke against Clemson in the Super Regionals two weekends ago.
The Sooners are also the only team to ever score 500 runs in three consecutive seasons, scoring their 500th run against the Noles on Thursday night. Oklahoma was inevitable all season long, and now, they are national champions yet again.
Perhaps the best way to summarize the Sooners’ season is this stat: OU outscored its opponents 501-59 on the year.
Jordy Bahl Dazzles Again to Close Out Perfect Week in OKC
Oklahoma’s offense was incredible this season, but the reason they went on this kind of run is more about their dominance in the circle. Since about the halfway point in the season, Jordy Bahl has proven to be the ace for this staff, and she proved that again in Oklahoma City over the last week.
After Alex Storako gave up a home run in the fourth, Bahl entered the circle with a 2-1 lead in the fifth to relieve her. In 3.0 IP, she struck out three with no walks, no runs, and no hits. With the performance, which served as the perfect ending to her week, Bahl earned the title of the WCWS Most Outstanding Player.
Bahl was a perfect 4-0 in the Women’s College World Series, tossing 24.2 scoreless innings with 33 Ks, and also scored two runs as a pinch runner. Yes, Bahl outscored every opponent she faced this week in Oklahoma City. That’s how special she was.
The sophomore finished the year with a 23-1 record, 192 strikeouts, and just 19 earned runs over 147.1 IP, bringing her ERA to 0.90.
Looking Forward to 2024
The Sooners’ victory on Thursday signified the end to yet another impressive run for Patty Gasso’s winning machine, but this has got to be the end of an era now, right? Not so fast.
After losing Jocelyn Alo in 2022, the Sooners were bound to take a step back, except they didn’t. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s likely to be the case again in 2024, based solely on returning production. The Sooners will lose captain Grace Lyons, as well as Haley Lee, Alex Storako, and Grace Green.
On the other hand, Oklahoma is set to return: Jayda Coleman, Tiare Jennings, Kinzie Hansen, Rylie Boone, Jordy Bahl, Nicole May, Kierston Deal, Alyssa Brito, Alynah Torres, Jocelyn Erickson, and a host of other returners. Plus, the Sooners will add a 2023 recruiting class that contains three of the top 11 players in the nation.
The Oklahoma softball machine isn’t likely to slow down after an incredible run this season, had should enter 2024 as the team to beat once again.