As we all know and have experienced, the best team, in sports as in everyday life, does not always win. There is nothing scientific about it, despite what the disciples of sabermetrics would have us believe. It's not about the best team in the standings or on paper. it's about the team that plays best on that particular day.
Fans of Oklahoma Sooners softball have enjoyed a year of unrestrained euphoria, fueled by a dominating performance by a team that has been the best team on the field in 52 of its 56 outings this season and has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for the entire season. Coach Patty Gasso's Sooners own a 23-3 record this spring against ranked opponents (5-2 against the eight teams in the Women's College World Series) and are in the top 10 nationally in most all of the key statistical categories, demonstrating their incredible balance and resilience throughout the 2013 college softball season.
The Sooners are currently on an eight-game winning streak after sweeping all five of their NCAA regional and super-regional games. And don't overlook the fact that this is OU's third consecutive trip to the WCWS, where they have a 12-11 record all-time..
Oklahoma is the best team coming into this year's Women's College World Series, and they will be the best team when the final out is recorded and the championship trophy is rightfully awarded five - or, as they say, if necessary - six days from now. The Sooners have been a target all season due to their high national standing, yet they have met practically every challenge thrown and batted at them.
The OU roster is laden with talent, including the USA Softball College Player of the Year in senior pitcher Keilani Ricketts, but the Lady Sooners have not relied on one or two superstars for their success this season. It has been a total team effort, and that's what it takes to win a championship.
"This is really, truly, an all-around balanced team in every area," Gasso said. "It's going to be very difficult to beat this team."
At the plate, OU has been led all season by sophomores Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley. First-baseman Chamberlain leads the Sooners and the nation in slugging percentage (.1.105) and RBI per game (1.41), is second in the country in home runs (27 in 56 games) and total runs batted in and is eighth nationally in hitting with a batting average of .463.
Pendley, who mans the hot corner (third base) for the Sooners has been right on Chamberlain's heels all season long. She ranks seventh in the nation with 22 home runs, sixth in slugging percentage (.903) and third in runs produced per game (1.30)
Ricketts, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and two-time National Player of the Year, has been the big story this year, posting 31 wins in 32 decisions, including holding the opposition hitless five times, but she would be the first to tell you that without a strong supporting cast none of this would have been possible. And Ricketts excellence on the field hasn't been confined just to the pitching circle. She is a major threat in the batter's box, as well. Her offensive stat line reads: .375 batting average, 13 home runs, third most on the team, and 54 RBI. Ricketts has a .388 career average in her four seasons at Oklahoma.
As a team, OU leads the country in slugging percentage (.590) and ERA (1.16) is third in batting average (.338) and sixth in fielding percentage (.977).
In addition to their goal of finishing the job at the this season's College World Series, the Sooners would also like to do well to help in the healing process for the victims of last week's monstrous storm that hit the community of Moore on the southern outskirts of Oklahoma City and just 20 miles or so north of where the University of Oklahoma is located.
"Usually we say that we're playing for the name on the front of our jersey," Ricketts said. "That name has a different meaning to it now."
The Lady Sooners are definitely on a mission this season, and "Mighty Mo" is definitely on their side. Something tells me they are going to finish the job this year. After all, three times is charm.