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Oklahoma Softball: The Sooners have redefined what it means to be dominant

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Could this end up being the greatest collegiate softball team ever?

Texas Longhorns At Oklahoma Sooners Softball | Game 3 Gallery

A month before the start of the softball season, head coach Patty Gasso had a funny feeling about her Oklahoma Sooners. When asked about her expectations for this year’s group, she said “I think this is one of the strongest offenses that we’ve ever had. That is how I feel about this team’s potential.”

Fast-forward 22 games into the 2021 campaign, and Gasso looks like a bona fide prophet. Not only is OU currently undefeated and unanimously ranked atop every major poll in D-I softball, this bunch has made scoring truly look like child’s play.

Breaking Records

From game one, Gasso’s preseason prediction came true in a resounding way. In the opener against UTEP, the Sooners blasted the Miners, 29-0 behind a record-setting mark of 13 total home runs. Two weeks later, Oklahoma posted 33 runs over New Mexico thanks to a record-shattering 28 hits.

In fact, OU’s 22-0 record is already the second-best start in program history, trailing only the ‘07 squad’s 23-0 start. That team wound up finishing the year at 55-8, and ultimately fell short of the Women’s College World Series with a pair of losses to DePaul in the Norman Super Regional. It just goes to show that no matter how hot the start, when it comes to winning championships, it’s all about the finish. For this team, finishing in first is the mindset.

Stats Don’t Lie

So just how dominant have these Sooners been this season? By the numbers, Oklahoma leads the nation in the following categories:

  • Total runs — 267
  • Total home runs — 77
  • Total hits — 292
  • Team batting average — .470
  • Team slugging percentage — .926
  • On base percentage — .538

Speaking of home runs, for context, the most dingers any OU team has recorded in a single season is 115 in 2019. At 77 total homers today, this year’s group of Sooner sluggers is on pace to surpass that mark in the next 11 games, which considering that’s only the halfway point of the season, achieving such a phenomenal feat would be nothing short of spectacular.

If scoring runs in bunches wasn’t enough, defensively, Oklahoma also leads the nation with 13 shutouts and has only given up 25 combined runs (1.1 rpg) to their opponents on the season. Moreover, this team has finished 16 of its 22 games via run-rule fashion, which for all intents and purposes is one of the most clearly defined measures of dominance this game has to offer.

At the Plate

The Sooners’ vaunted batting lineup features a bevy of sluggers who are more than capable of going yard on any given pitch. Headlining the ballyhooed group is senior Jocelyn Alo. Since she first arrived in Norman, her reputation in the box has seemed almost mythical. Sure enough, she’s proven that there’s nothing false about her game. Not only is she great at making contact, she’s truly second-to-none when it comes to busting the guts out of a softball.

On the season, Alo ranks first nationally in home runs (19), RBI (49), total bases (95) and batting average (.547) for players who have appeared in at least 20 games. Additionally, she is currently carrying a 36-game hitting streak that dates back to the 2020 season.

So far, Alo has climbed into second-place in program history with a career total of 73 home runs. She now only trails Lauren Chamberlain’s (2012-15) career mark of 95 homers, which still stands as the highest individual-best in NCAA history. In a recent interview, the Hauula, Hawaii native confirmed that she intends to come back in 2022 using the blanket eligibility waiver granted by the NCAA amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, at the pace Alo is on right now, that record is as good as hers, whether it comes this season or the next.

While Alo garners most of the national attention, freshman Tiare Jennings is (not-so) quietly turning in the kind of year that any senior would be proud of. In fact, if you find yourself perusing the stat books, it won’t take you long to find the San Pedro, California product’s name considering she’s typically near the top of most major categories. Through 22 contests, Jennings leads the team with 38 hits, ranks third in the nation with 14 home runs and second nationally with 40 RBI.

If you’re talking about Oklahoma’s firepower behind the plate, you can’t forget to mention sophomore Kinzie Hansen. Interestingly enough, while her teammates Alo and Jennings rank first and third, respectively in home runs on the season, right behind them is Hansen, who ranks fourth nationally with 13 dingers in 2021. Not only is she a serious threat with the long ball, she’s statistically the toughest player to strike out in D-I. In 64 total at-bats this season, an opposing pitcher has yet to ‘K’ the Norco, California native.

When junior shortstop Grace Lyons isn’t making SportsCenter level highlights on defense, she’s usually making moves inside the batter’s box. This Sooner currently has 10 home runs on the season, good for her career best mark already with roughly one third of the season in the books.

In the Circle

Coming off a biceps surgery in 2020, redshirt senior pitcher Giselle ‘G’ Juarez appears to be back to form this season. That’s especially good news for the Sooners because there will likely come a day when the bats just aren’t cracking like they normally do. In those moments, OU will be confident knowing it has a veteran ace in the circle it can lean on.

On the season, Juarez has allowed just 15 runs in 39.0 innings pitched. She’s also totaled 50 strikeouts compared to just six walks. In the bull pen, redshirt senior Shannon Saile and freshman Nicole May have also been clutch for the Sooners, boasting ERAs of .00 (25.0 IP) and 1.19 (29.1 IP), respectively. The three aforementioned pitchers are also credited with a combined 21 victories, exemplifying pitching coach Jennifer Rocha’s philosophy for a healthy balance between production and workload.

On Deck

This past weekend, No. 1 Oklahoma hosted an exhibition series at Marita Hynes Field against the Mexican National Softball Team. While the results and statistics of these games aren’t being factored as part of the 2021 season, the Sooners claimed a series sweep against the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers. By any measure, that’s a wildly impressive feat.

Oh, and they were also reunited with a familiar face — that of one Sydney Romero.

The next time Patty Gasso’s squad is set to play a game of consequence will be on Friday, Mar. 26, when OU opens Big 12 play in a three-game road series against the Iowa State Cyclones.

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