top of page

TRIPLE PLAY

Top-ranked Sooners finish off magical season with 53 straight wins and a third

consecutive national title


By Jay C. Upchurch

______________________________________________________________________



For every challenge it faced during the 2023 season, the University of Oklahoma

softball team had an answer.


For every hurdle, the Sooners had a second gear.


For every big moment, someone in Patty Gasso’s lineup rose to the occasion.

Prime time rivalry game. No problem.


Top 25 opponent. A perfect 28-0.


Not even several walls of lightening bolts that rolled past USA Softball Hall of Fame

Stadium could stop the two-time defending national champions from accomplishing what

they set out to do back in February — win a third straight Women’s College World Series

title.


Along the way, the top-ranked Sooners put together the winningest season in NCAA

Division-I history, finishing 61-1 with a national-record 53 consecutive victories that

included a two-game sweep of No. 3 Florida State in the WCWS Championship Series.


OU is the first program since UCLA (1988-90) to win three straight national

championships.


Ace hurler Jordy Bahl, playing in her final games for Oklahoma, earned the Series’

most outstanding player honors by tossing 10 scoreless innings against the Seminoles,

picking up a win in Game 1 and a save in Game 2. The sophomore from Papillion, Neb.,

did not allow a run in 24.2 innings while posting a 4-0 record at the WCWS.


“There were a lot of dreams that came true tonight,” said Gasso in the aftermath of

her team clinching its seventh overall national title and sixth in the last 10 years. “I could

not be more proud of this group of players. They never played tight. They never played

afraid… They just refused to lose.”


That was never more evident than during the Sooners’ 16 th overall trip to the WCWS

and 11 th OKC appearance in the past 12 years. In five series games, Gasso’s squad

used timely hitting and stellar pitching and defense to outscore its opponents 23-3,

knocking off standout pitchers NiJaree Canady (Stanford) and Kathryn Sandercock

(Florida State, 28-4), 2-0 and 3-1, respectively.


Oklahoma opened the WCWS with a 2-0 victory over Canady (17-3) and Stanford

behind a 5-hit, 11-strikeout pitching performance from Bahl. Centerfielder Jayda

Coleman provided all of the offense the Sooners would need via a run-scoring single in

the fifth inning that actually plated two when it was misplayed by the Cardinal outfield.


Gasso’s squad routed Tennessee in the winner’s bracket game, 9-0, as Bahl and the

OU bullpen (Alex Storako, Nicole May and Kiersten Deal) combined on a 1-hit shutout.


Tiare Jennings paced the offense with a 3-run, second-inning homer, and the

Sooners blew it open with six runs in the third, which included a two-run shot from Kinzie

Hansen and a two-run triple off the bat of Rylie Boone.


That win set up a rematch with Stanford in the semifinals and once again, the

Sooners were up for the challenge, rallying from a 2-0 deficit with four unanswered runs

that were highlighted by a two-run homer from Jennings in extra innings.


“She’s been delivering since she was delivered from the womb, really,” said Gasso,

reflecting on Jennings late-game heroics.


May kept the game close, surrendering four hits and two runs in five innings, before

Bahl came on to throw four innings of scoreless relief and get the win that earned OU a

spot in the WCWS Champ Series against Florida State for the second time in three

seasons.


Back in 2021, the rivals split the first two games before a three-run Coleman homer

and a dazzling pitching performance from Giselle Juarez helped earn the Sooners the

national title via a 5-1 win.


There would be no need for a rubber game this time around, as OU rolled to a 5-0 win

over the Seminoles in Game 1 behind Bahl’s arm and big hits from Hansen, Boone and

Alyssa Brito. The Sooners closed the deal one night later when Storako and Bahl

combined on a 3-hitter that was backed by clutch solo homers from Cydney Sanders

and Grace Lyons.


The game also featured what has become a signature play from Coleman as she

made a leaping catch above the centerfield fence to rob Florida State of a three-run

homer in the third inning, keeping the game in a scoreless tie.


“I’m really proud of this team for how we stuck together this season — through the

pressure and adversity, and remained one strong cohesive unit. That’s special,” said

Bahl, who finished the season 22-1 with an 0.90 earned run average.


Without two-time national player of the year and NCAA home run champ Jocelyn Alo,

who graduated after the 2022 WCWS, the Sooners were still an offensive force this

spring. In fact, they led the nation with 501 runs, thus becoming the first team in NCAA

history to top the 500-run mark in three different seasons.


Five players earned NFCA All-America honors, including Brito, Coleman, Hansen and

Jennings, each of whom hit over .400 for the season. Jennings, a junior, led the way with

a .415 average, while Brito (.412), Hansen (.409) and Coleman (.408) were close

behind.


Brito, Coleman and Jennings also led the team with 17 homers each, and Jennings

drove in a team-best 66 runs.


Not only did Oklahoma lead the nation in batting average (.366), the Sooners also

topped the charts in pitching and defense.


And the big performances were not limited to the All-America list. Basically every

player on the roster contributed in some way during the magical run, including Boone

(.392), Haley Lee (.370, 14), Erickson (.343, 7), Sanders (.286, 9), Alynah Torres (.342)

and Sophia Nugent (.274, 7).


Meanwhile, Lyons’ near-flawless work at shortstop helped the five-year starter

become the first OU player to ever collect a Rawlings Gold Glove Award (they only

started giving them out in 2022).


While much of the pitching spotlight was focused on Bahl, she shared the circle with

Storako (18-0) and May (18-0), both of whom flashed moments of brilliance while

freshman Kiersten Diehl (3-0, 0.77) was also solid in 20 appearances.


Still, it was Bahl who sparkled in the biggest moments and on the biggest stage a

year after she struggled through a late-season injury that limited her effectiveness at the

2022 WCWS. This time around, she was healthy and almost unhittable.


“Jordy and this team feel like there’s nothing they can’t overcome, and they know

that fear is kind of the enemy,” said Gasso during the WCWS. “You hear people say

pressure is a privilege. They thrive (on it). They love it. And they love those big

moments.”


If there was a big moment that defined the Sooners’ incredible season, it probably

came in Game 2 of the Super Regional after Clemson had rallied from a 4-0 deficit to

take a 7-4 lead late. A loss would force a one-game winner-take-all situation the

following day, but OU’s resiliency was on full display.


Boone opened the seventh inning with a single before Coleman flied out and

Jennings grounded into a fielder’s choice. Haley Lee kept the Sooners’ hopes alive with

a single, bringing to the plate Kinzie Hansen, who immediately fell behind 0-2.


Down to her last strike, Hansen hit a three-run homer that tied the game, and two

innings later, Jennings hit a solo homer that proved to be the game winner that delivered

OU into the WCWS again.


That victory, OU’s 48 th straight, broke the national consecutive game win streak

established by Arizona (1996-97).


“We know this — we’re never out of a game. No matter what,” said Gasso after the 8-

7 victory. “We could be down by five, four, whatever — we’re not out of a game. And we

believe that.”


Oklahoma opened the season as the consensus No. 1-ranked team in the country

and promptly reeled off eight straight victories before dropping a 4-3 decision to Baylor

at the Getterman Classic in Waco on Feb. 18.


Just like a season before when the Sooners saw a 40-game win streak stopped in a

Big 12 game at Texas, Gasso was solely focused on how her team would bounce back

after the loss.


“What’s valuable is the response, the rebound and the extra work that is going to be

put in to make us better,” said Gasso in the wake of the Baylor setback.


That response would last for the next 109 days as the Sooners went on a historic

winning streak that carried them through the remainder of the regular season and right

through the postseason and to the national title. It included 29 of the team’s 32 shutouts

and was highlighted by a mid-April sweep of Baylor in Waco.


OU went on to finish off the Big 12 regular season with a perfect 18-0 mark, and then

swept through the conference tourney, knocking off Texas 6-1 in the finale and setting

up another incredible postseason run.


The Sooners’ 29 th straight NCAA Tournament appearance is tied with Washington for

the longest streak in the nation. Prior to this season, OU had won national titles in 2000,

2013, 2016, 2017, 2021 and 2022. Only UCLA (12) and Arizona (8) have won more.


“We don’t really talk about making history,” said Hansen in the aftermath of OU’s title-

clinching win over Florida State. “But looking around at the girls and the super seniors

who came here to do this — this one is for them. Our backs were against the wall and

everyone is saying bad things about us. So being able to come through like we did is

pretty special.”


The Sooners, who often wear their emotions on their collective sleeves, had been

criticized recently via social media for being “overly enthusiastic” and even “thug-like.”

But Gasso said her team would not apologize for playing the game with passion and a

contagious enthusiasm that has been the program’s M.O. for several seasons.


“Because women have worked so hard to get here yet still get judged for those

things,” said Gasso, whose teams have gone a combined 176-8 over the past three

seasons. “That’s the way we play, and that’s what people enjoy. Or you don’t. You either

like it or you don’t, but we’re not going to apologize for these players knowing the game

and celebrating the right way.”


Opposing teams and fans better get used to it because the Sooners return 11 of their

top 15 players in 2024, including Jennings, Coleman, Boone, Hansen, Brito, May, Torres

and Sanders. Bahl, however, will not be one of them, as she announced after the

WCWS that she had decided to return home to play for Nebraska for her final two

collegiate seasons.


27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page