What a season. It may seem routine, at this point, for Patty Gasso to lead the Sooners to a national championship. After all, she’s done it three times in the last five seasons and four times over her stellar career.
But while performing at the highest level of the sport may seem routine for the Sooners, if you think about it, you know it’s not.
There’s the grind of recruiting players, coaching them, watching them improve and saying goodbye when they graduate, only to start the process all over again. There’s the 60-plus games every season, the increasingly tough competition from across the nation, the pressure of outperforming the standard you’ve set for yourself and your team. And softball can be a game of inches. The wrong pitch at the wrong time, a misplayed ground ball, a baserunning goof and, all of a sudden, your season is over.
If you think defeating the University of Florida in consecutive games was easy, think again. The Gators were the top-ranked team going into the tournament, thanks to the best RPI (that’s rating percentage index, and it’s a system used to rank the value of a team’s wins and losses based on strength of schedule). And there was no guarantee that the Sooners were even going to get to the championship series.
OU entered the postseason a No. 10 seed (no team seeded that low had ever won the WCWS). An early loss to North Dakota State put them on the edge of elimination. How did Gasso’s squad respond?
They rattled off 11 consecutive victories. They went to Auburn and beat Auburn in two straight games. They came back home, fought their way to the championship series, defeated the highest-ranked team in the country in a mammoth, 17-inning instant classic of a game and then came back the next day, undoubtedly exhausted, to triumph again.
It wasn’t just Gasso, of course. There’s an entire roster of Sooners who all contributed to the national championship: Shay Knighten, Paige Parker, Paige Lowary, Caleigh Clifton, Sydney Romero … just go down the list. There’s assistant coaches and graduate student managers and, of course, thousands of fans who cheered the Sooners all year. Softball is a team effort. So were back-to-back titles.
Be sure to give credit where credit is due. Gasso and company are national champions.
What a season.