The No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (57-3) will look to add an exclamation point onto the end of a historic season with a sixth national championship in program history, and second straight title.
Standing in their way is a familiar foe.
The best-two-of-three Women's College World Series will also serve as the latest edition of the Red River Rivalry with higher-than-usual stakes. Oklahoma versus Texas? More like David versus Goliath. Come Friday (or Thursday) night, who will hold competitive softball’s greatest prize?
Arguably the decade’s most dominant softball program, Wednesday marks OU’s third straight championship series, seventh in the past 10 years and eighth of all time.
— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) June 6, 2022
The last time Oklahoma won back-to-back titles (a feat accomplished by only UCLA, Arizona and Florida) was in 2016 and 2017.
The Longhorns (47-20-1), meanwhile, have charged toward their first championship series, gleefully busting brackets with their wake. With a comeback win Monday over No. 7 Oklahoma State, Texas became the first unseeded team in NCAA history to reach the finals. Texas’ 4-1 WCWS record (dropping just one game to Oklahoma, 7-2, on June 4) offers a stark contrast to its 5-7 record to start the season.
— NCAA Softball (@NCAASoftball) June 7, 2022
Jocelyn Alo and other keys to Oklahoma’s success
OU leads the NCAA in team batting average (.368), runs (553, a whopping 131 more than runner-up Arkansas) and home runs per game (2.45). In Jocelyn Alo, the Sooners have the greatest hitter college softball has ever seen. She’s the NCAA’s all-time leading home run hitter with 120, and became the first player to record three 30-plus home run seasons during the WCWS (against Texas!). Her batting average this season is good enough for second in the NCAA at .509.
Oklahoma’s leadership inside the circle is also clutch. RHP Hope Trautwein, who transferred to Norman this year from North Texas, has allowed just 14 runs through 121 innings. Monday night, she struck out six in five innings to lift OU 15-0 over UCLA, the largest victory in WCWS history and Oklahoma’s 40th run rule win of the season (that’s a record, too, doubling the next best Division I mark of 20 by Louisiana). The victory was Trautwein’s 21st, raising her winning percentage to .954. OU as a whole has the lowest ERA in the NCAA at 0.97
Oklahoma's 15-0 win is the largest victory by any team in Women's College World Series history.
This is Oklahoma's 40th run-rule win this season, twice as many as the next closest team in Division I (Louisiana - 20) per @643Charts.com https://t.co/6spJa5IkBx
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 6, 2022
Why Texas can’t be counted out
While it’s hard to imagine anyone but the Sooners hoisting the championship trophy by week’s end, it’d seem unwise to completely dismiss the Longhorns. One of Oklahoma’s three losses this season came from Texas (4-2 in Austin, granted OU beat UT in their three other meetings.). The Longhorns have momentum from a three-game win streak propelling them and the support of Texas great Cat Osterman up in the stands. And even if they fall behind, the Longhorns have 18 comeback wins this season, so who knows how close this series could be.
— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) June 7, 2022
The WCWS and softball’s rising popularity
Regardless of who wins, history has been made. Historically good softball is being played in front of a historic number of eyeballs.
ESPN reported its Thursday broadcast of Oregon State-Florida and Northwestern-Oklahoma averaged 901,000 viewers. Before that, the super regional between Texas and Arkansas averaged 1.02 million. Saturday’s doubleheader drew a single-day record of 12,533 fans to Oklahoma City.
The network said Game 1 of the semifinal series between Oklahoma State and Texas had 1.25 million viewers. Game 2 rose to 1.3 million.
A prime-time series debut – the only time slot worthy of such a matchup – on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday could promise more of the same.