OKLAHOMA CITY – The Women’s College World Series Finals will begin Wednesday at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN. It’s a classic example of David vs. Goliath: The best-of-three match will challenge Texas, the first unseeded team to make the league series, against Oklahoma No.1, possibly the most dominant team in the history of the sport.
The Sooners (57–3) are reigning champions looking for their sixth title under the guidance of manager Patty Gasso. The Longhorns (47–20) are looking to spoil their first ever trip to the championship. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the result here is necessarily obvious. The first of these three defeats for Oklahoma? Yes, it was Texas. Taking on the Sooners will be a huge challenge for the Longhorns (as it would be for any team). But they proved they can beat them once.
How incredible was a season for Oklahoma?
There is the aforementioned record of 57–3. There is the fact that Oklahoma played 40 games that trigger the running rule, the provision that ends a game when a team is eight or more ahead after five innings, while no other program has played more than 20. And even with less playing time later that so many of their matches have been interrupted via the government of mercy, the Sooners are still easily he led Division I in scoring, both in raw numbers (553 points) and in rate statistics (9.2 points per game). They top the leaderboard in almost all offensive stats, including OBP, where they boast a .473. (Yes, that’s correct, they enter the base almost half the time.)
Much of that success comes from NCAA home run queen Jocelyn Alo, the best hitter in college softball history, now a senior in a red jersey, playing at the top of her game. But it’s not just Alo. Any pitcher who decides to take her for a walk than her is faced with Tiare Jennings, a hitter who is not much less formidable. Any pitcher who decides to walk his gets Grace Lyons, which is, you guessed it, pot-like strength. All three are in the nation’s top 10 for slugging rates: Alo is number 1 at 1,189 (1,189 SLG!), Jennings is no. 6 to .914 and Lyons is No. 8 to .876. The trio creates a special kind of nightmare for opposing teams. But there are threats up and down in this formation: Alo is particularly ferocious and Jennings and Lyons are only just behind, but even the bottom of the order here can pack a punch. A team does not average 9.2 runs per game without contributions from all.
If Oklahoma’s success only came from his offense, the team could still rightfully be considered the best in history. But his pitching is phenomenal too. The Sooners led Division I with an ERA of 0.97. (No other team had an ERA below 1.00.) This is led by two new players on the roster this year: Hope Trautwein (0.58 ERA), the senior red jersey who moved from North Texas, and Jordy Bahl (1.02 ERA), who was recently named Freshman of the Year. This means that the sport’s most explosive bats are paired with the best running prevention in the country.
In other words, if you’ve been impressed with last year’s dominant league team from Oklahoma, that’s even better.
And how unlikely was a rush for Texas?
Extremely. He goes back in February. The Longhorns got their first prolonged taste of intense competition this season at the Clearwater Elite Invitational and have lost every game they play. Texas was short against state no. 5 of Florida, no. 25 of Auburn, no. 3 of UCLA, no. 24 Central Florida and Notre Dame. A trip to the WCWS, not to mention the championship, would have seemed next to impossible then. While the season has improved since then, it has always been erratic, with flashes of brilliance.
But Texas took its step at exactly the right time. Seeding (lack of) of the Longhorns meant they were on their way to regional and superregional. Yet they kept coming straight to Oklahoma City. Everything fell into place: what used to be a mediocre defense during the regular season now played almost without errors. Their only WCWS defeat so far has been (surprise!) To Oklahoma. Their success against all others stemmed in large part from Hailey Dolcini’s gritty throwing performance, Courtney Day’s shots, and senior star Janae Jefferson’s timely shots.
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It is unlikely that an unseeded team will make it to the league series. (There’s a reason it’s never been done before!) That these Longhorns are, after their bumpy start to the season, is unbelievable. They know they shouldn’t be here. But that’s okay with them, all that matters is that they’re here now.
“He’s just going out there and playing with a chip on his shoulder,” said Jefferson on Tuesday, “and knowing that no one really expected us to be here or thought we deserved to be here.”
How did Texas beat Oklahoma for the first time?
Oklahoma was undefeated when they visited Texas for a three-game streak in April. The Sooners opened things up as usual: they ruled out the Longhorns in the first game and ruled them in the second. And then, against all odds, they lost in the third.
Much of this came from Dolcini. It was one of his best performances of the year: he kept the Sooners two-shot, two-run, no walking, in the 4–2 win for the Longhorns. He combines Dolcini’s exit with the fact that Texas was able to open the scoring and strike first: Oklahoma very, very, very Very he rarely lets that happen, and it was enough for victory.
Could it happen again? Could. But taking home the championship requires two victories in the final series. So it could happen twice? This is a much bigger question.
“Obviously, our highest standard was once a win over Oklahoma. It all came together and we started believing in it and we started playing well, “Texas manager Mike White said on Tuesday.” Sure, it’s hard to repeat all the time, but we know it’s the standard we can get to. “
As for how the Sooners see it? Yes, they lost that game, but this year they are 3-1 against Texas. They see more to focus on in the 3 compared to 1.
“There are no surprises here,” Gasso said. “I think both teams are working to get into the draw quickly, set the tone quickly, but I like the idea that we have this experience and that we have been here and we have already done so.”
More WCWS coverage:
• ‘It’s Come So Far’: ASU and the rich history of WCWS before Title IX
• Everything to know ahead of the Women’s College World Series
• The new WCWS format leads to a great tournament milestone