No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (57-3) will look to add an exclamation point at the end of a historic season with a sixth national championship in program history and a second consecutive title.
A familiar enemy stands in their way.
The best two of three Women’s College World Series will also serve as the final edition of Red River Rivalry with higher than usual stakes. Oklahoma versus Texas? Rather David against Goliath. Come Friday (or Thursday) night, who will take home the biggest prize in competitive softball?
Arguably the most dominant softball program of the decade, Wednesday marks OU’s third straight championship series, seventh in the past 10 years and eighth all-time.
The last time Oklahoma won back-to-back titles (a feat accomplished only by UCLA, Arizona and Florida) was in 2016 and 2017.
The Longhorns (47-20-1), meanwhile, embarked on their first championship series, happily breaking brackets with their wake. With a comeback win Monday over No. 7 Oklahoma State, Texas became the first unranked team in NCAA history to reach the Finals. Texas’ 4-1 WCWS record (losing a single game to Oklahoma, 7-2, June 4) provides a stark contrast to its 5-7 record to start the season.
Jocelyn Alo and other keys to Oklahoma’s success
OU leads the NCAA in batting average per team (.368), runs (553, a whopping 131 more than second-placed Arkansas) and home runs per game (2.45). In Jocelyn Alo, the Sooners have the greatest hitter college softball has ever seen. She is the NCAA’s all-time leading home run hitter with 120, and became the first player to record three home run seasons over the age of 30 during the WCWS (against Texas!). His batting average this season is good enough for second place in the NCAA at .509.
Oklahoma’s leadership inside the circle is also tight. RHP Hope Trautwein, who traded to Norman this year from North Texas, allowed just 14 runs in 121 innings. On Monday night, she struck out six of five innings to lift OU 15-0 over UCLA, the biggest win in WCWS history and Oklahoma’s 40th win of the season (also a record, doubling the next best Division I mark of 20 by Louisiana). The win was Trautwein’s 21st, taking his winning percentage to .954. OU as a whole has the lowest ERA in the NCAA at 0.97
Why Texas Can’t Be Counted
While it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the Sooners lifting the championship trophy by the end of the week, it would seem unwise to dismiss the Longhorns altogether. One of Oklahoma’s three losses this season has come to Texas (4-2 at Austin, awarded to OU beating UT in their other three meetings.). The Longhorns have the momentum of a three-game winning streak propelling them and the support of Texas great Cat Osterman into 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.
The growing popularity of WCWS and softball
Whoever wins, history was made. Historically good softball is played in front of a historic number of eyeballs.
ESPN reported its Thursday broadcast from Oregon-Florida State and Northwestern Oklahoma 901,000 viewers on average. Before that, the super regional between Texas and Arkansas averaged 1.02 million. Saturday’s doubleheader drew a single-day record 12,533 fans to Oklahoma City.
The network said Game 1 of the semi-final between Oklahoma State and Texas drew 1.25 million viewers. Game 2 went to 1.3 million.
A prime-time series debut — the only time slot worthy of such a game — on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday could promise more of the same.
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