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Eight no-hitters and 59 wins: Oklahoma’s case as softball’s all-time best

The Oklahoma softball team celebrates its second straight Women's College World Series title after defeating Texas on Thursday. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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After winning games by 19, 20 and 21 runs, the Oklahoma softball team offered a more subtle showing during its Thursday victory over rival Texas, a 10-5 win that secured a second straight national title for a team whose achievements are extraordinarily extensive.

Indeed, numbers help capture the historic quality of the Sooners.

The journey to the school’s sixth national title spanned 62 games — 59 of them wins and 40 ended by mercy rule. It had 155 home runs, 33 shutouts and eight no-hitters — a reflection of its hitting prowess as much as the skill of its pitching staff.

Along the way, star slugger Jocelyn Alo smashed her NCAA career record 122nd home run — and a host of other records. All-American Tiare Jennings set a Women’s College World Series record with 15 RBI. And freshman phenom Jordy Bahl finished with a 22-1 record, a 1.16 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 145⅓ innings.

Those stats and superlatives invited questions about Oklahoma’s place among the best in the school and sport’s history. Some players avoided direct answers after the win, but Coach Patty Gasso flipped the question on inquiring minds.

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

Oklahoma lost three games this season, including one to then-No. 18 Texas in mid-April and another to a top-10 Oklahoma State team a month later in the Big 12 title game. The latter, a 4-3 defeat, represented one of the team’s lowest scoring outputs this season, and it marked the first time the Sooners had not won the regular season and tournament titles since 2012.

“This team is not happy with the defeat,” Gasso said after the loss. “That is something they always seem to bounce back even stronger. They did that at Texas. They want to win championships. When someone takes it from them, they respond.”

Oklahoma responded once regionals began, crushing its next six opponents by a 113-11 margin — sans a 7-3 defeat to UCLA in the first game of the semifinal, which, on the brink of elimination, the Sooners avenged with a 15-0 drubbing of the Bruins later that day.

Why focus on the losses? Because they’re easier to count than the records.

Alo has been a prolific record reviser during this year’s College World Series. Entering Thursday’s game, she held at least five WCWS records — or shared them with Jennings. She’s the only player in NCAA Division I softball history to lead the country in home runs in three seasons.

Her team has 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 country in batting average (.371), ERA (1.05), home runs per game (2.5), runs per game (9.34) and slugging percentage (.734).

With stars such as Alo and Jennings, who led Division I in RBI this year (Alo’s 85 were second, and senior Grace Lyons tied for sixth with 70), Oklahoma’s firepower was a well-known commodity before this season. If there was a question as to whether the team could repeat, it centered on its pitching after the program returned just one of its primary pitchers (Nicole May).

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

UCLA became the only team in Division I softball history to win three consecutive championships from 1988 to 1990. Alo, one of five “super seniors” on the team after being granted an additional year of eligibility because of the pandemic, departs. But Jennings is a sophomore, as is Jayda Coleman, whose leaping robbery helped secure the school’s fifth title in the past nine World Series.

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

“I would say with me being a senior, I think this is the best team,” Alo said. “But one thing about Sooner softball — and I’ve seen it year in and year out — is they just continue to get better. I don’t know what holds next year, but I know that they could be a run for the best team, too.”