Oklahoma Softball Breaks Record for Best Season Start

In their last five games, the Oklahoma Sooners softball team scored a resounding 52 runs. Their opponents scored zero. It was no surprise when on Sunday, April 10, after a 21-0 victory over Texas Tech, the Oklahoma Sooners added their thirty-sixth victory to their season record, now 36-0. With the victory, the Sooners broke the record for the best ever undefeated start to a season in the history of NCAA Division I softball, besting the 35-0 record set by UCLA 23 years ago. The Sooners currently hold the No. 1 spot in the ESPN/USA Softball collegiate rankings.

The softball program at Oklahoma University has dominated Division I for almost three decades under coach Patty Gasso. In her 28 years as the head coach, Gasso’s accomplishments are numerous. She led the team to five national championships — the third-most titles in Division I softball — thirteen Big 12 regular-season conference championships, and fourteen appearances at the Women’s College World Series. Currently, Gasso is one of the highest-paid college softball coaches in the nation, making over $1 million per year.

Most recently, Oklahoma softball has won national titles in 2021, 2017, 2016, and 2013. Like many others, I joined the Oklahoma bandwagon in 2016 and have been a fan ever since. The Oklahoma team is exciting to watch, especially at bat. Currently, the team leads Division I in several offensive categories. Oklahoma ranks No. 1 in batting average at .392. On average, the team hits 2.78 home runs per game, which also leads Division I. Oklahoma also ranks first in on base percentage at .504, meaning that around 50% of the time a batter comes to the plate, they will get on base; Oklahoma is more likely to get on base than any other Division I teams. While these offensive statistics are off the charts compared to the other teams, the Sooners are currently chasing their own home run record. As a team one season ago, Oklahoma bashed 161 home runs to earn the Division I record. Currently, the team has hit 100 home runs so far through 36 games; they are on pace to beat the record should they continue to play more games late into the postseason. 

Individually, Oklahoma players lead in offensive categories as well. Jocelyn Alo, the reigning USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, recently broke the record for most home runs hit by a single player in NCAA softball history. Alo, a senior from Hawaii, broke the record in her home state in a game against Hawaii on March 12 when she hit the 96th home run of her career. Alo beat previous record holder and former Oklahoma Sooner Lauren Chamberlain who held the record of 95 home runs since 2015. Since March 12, Alo has continued to hit home runs. This past weekend, she hit three home runs in a single game against Texas Tech and notched a total of five home runs throughout the weekend. Alo has now hit 109 home runs in her career as she continues to extend her record margin. Alo leads the nation with 21 home runs this season and an on base percentage of .679, and she also ties for the best batting average in Division I at .528

Alo is not the only Sooner who has dominated at the plate this season. Tiare Jennings, a sophomore who won NFCA/Schutt Sports Division I National Freshman of the Year a season ago, is tied for seventh in the nation with sixteen home runs. Jennings hit a key three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to escape losing to Baylor on March 27. Alo and Jennings tie for fifth in Division I with 49 RBIs this season. Another powerful hitter in the Oklahoma lineup is Grace Lyons, who is tied for the third most home runs in the nation with seventeen. Six batters on the Oklahoma team are batting over .400, making it very difficult to retire anyone in the Sooner lineup. 

Not only is Oklahoma’s offense explosive, but the team also boasts the best earned-run average in Division I at a minuscule 0.60. This means that in a typical seven-inning game, Oklahoma pitchers relinquish far less than one run to an opposing team. As a team, Oklahoma has also had the most shutouts this season with 21. Oklahoma’s three main pitchers rank in the top ten in Division I in individual ERA. Hope Trautwein leads the nation with a 0.12 ERA. Trautwein has allowed only one earned run throughout the season so far. Jordy Bahl ranks seventh with a 0.73 ERA, and Nicole May ranks eighth with a 0.82 ERA. Both Trautwein and Bahl are new to the pitching staff this year. Trautwein, a redshirt senior transfer from the University of North Texas, only gets to spend one year with the team but has already made an impact in the circle for the Sooners. Bahl, a freshman, was the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the current freshman class. May, a sophomore, was on the pitching staff a season ago and has experience pitching in the Women’s College World Series. On a pitching staff that has traditionally been led by lefty aces on the years Oklahoma has won national titles (Keilani Ricketts in 2013, Paige Parker in 2016, Parker again along with Paige Lowary in 2017, and Giselle Juarez in 2021), all of the pitchers on Oklahoma’s roster this year are right handed. While Bahl has thrown a plurality of the innings for the Sooners this year, no clear ace has emerged amongst the staff. For the first time in several years, the Sooners will head into the postseason without a lefty pitcher.

Remaining undefeated will be no easy task for the Sooners, especially as they head into this weekend. This Thursday, the Sooners will travel to Austin, TX, to face the No. 18 ranked Texas Longhorns in an important three-game series in Big 12 conference play. The Longhorns, who post a 30-10-1 record, also remain undefeated in the conference. Oklahoma will also have to play three games against No. 7 ranked Oklahoma State from May 5 through May 7 before heading into the postseason. While the Sooners are unbeatable on paper — and clearly unbeatable so far this season — they have not yet played many ranked opponents. The question remains as to whether Oklahoma will be able to keep up with teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and Pacific-12 (PAC-12), who play more difficult schedules. While Oklahoma dominates the Big 12 conference for now, the team will head to the SEC in a few years and face difficult opponents every weekend as opposed to winning by large margins as they do in Big 12 play. The move will be a test for Gasso and the team to see if they can compete at an even higher level. Even if Oklahoma doesn’t head into the postseason undefeated this year, they will still be a fun team to watch over the next month as they hope to earn a bid to the Women’s College World Series.

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