For the second time in four seasons, the Oklahoma Sooners have won the NCAA softball national championship.
Behind another stellar outing from sophomore Paige Parker, Oklahoma was able to keep the Auburn Tigers largely off the scoreboard and emerged with a narrow 2-1 victory in the decisive Game 3 of the Women’s College World Series championship. It was the team’s 32nd win in its last 33 games.
Parker did not start Tuesday’s Game 2 after pitching every inning of the postseason to that point. The result was a slugfest that saw the Sooners surrender a seven-run lead and ultimately lose the contest 11-7 when Auburn’s Emily Carosone hit a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth.
Parker responded forcefully Wednesday, surrendering only five hits and one walk with five strikeouts. Auburn’s best chance came in the third inning when it loaded the bases with no outs, but Parker struck out Carosone and then induced a double-play groundout to end the inning.
Young roster doesn’t slow Sooners
The win gives Oklahoma three softball championships, all under the tenure of head coach Patty Gasso. The first came in 2000, followed by a victory in 2013. The Sooners are only the third school to win more than two softball titles.
The feat is especially impressive when considering OU’s young roster. Following the departure of superstar Lauren Chamberlain before this season, the Sooners reloaded with a talented but inexperienced lineup that depended heavily on underclassmen. Sydney Romero, Caleigh Clifton, Fale Aviu and Shay Knighten were major contributors as freshmen, and the only seniors who saw regular playing time were Kady Self and Erin Miller. OU’s national title came as a surprise for many who considered the group ahead of schedule. The return of so many stars should render the Sooners a dangerous squad for several seasons to come.
Sooners enjoying all-around success
OU’s softball title caps off a season of success in Norman. The football, basketball and men’s tennis programs all made the national semifinals, while the Sooners took home national championships in men’s and women’s gymnastics.
Brendan Flynn, a sports information director who works with OU baseball and volleyball, said the school’s success starts from the top.
“Our administration is terrific at trusting their coaches and staff and letting them do what’s best for their programs,” he said. “They really give them the resources they need to be successful, and now we’re seeing big things from some of our high-profile sports. They’ve brought in great people like Bob Stoops, who just took the team to the College Football Playoff. Lon Kruger just went to the Final Four. And now Patty Gasso has her third national championship.”