Gasso's Sooners happily breaking their sport
Oklahoma's softball success best gauged by the entire lack of drama of just about every game it plays until the World Series arrives. Not that it's not amazing.
Coach Patty Gasso’s Sooner softball team is back in action Friday, taking part in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
In Palm Springs, the world waits to see if No. 1 Oklahoma can knock off Cal-State Fullerton, Long Beach State, No. 9 Arizona and No. 18 Tennessee.
Also, maybe, to see if the Sooners can finally get pack on the pace they created a year ago but have failed to create this one.
That would be sarcasm.
Unthinkably, though, at the plate, it’s actually true.
A year ago, 10 games into the season, the Sooners were averaging 14.6 runs. Now, 10 games into the season, it’s a mere 9.5.
The bigger point, of course, is OU’s utter, impossible, historic and just plain silly domination of the game.
For example …
This season, as a team, the Sooners are hitting .397, slugging .782 and getting on base 49.2 percent of the time.*
* Believe it or not, OU leads the nation in none of those categories, trailing No. 20 Louisiana in all three. Six games into their season, the Rajin’ Cajuns are hitting .453, slugging .807 and getting on base 50.6 percent of the time.
You’re thinking Louisiana hasn’t played anybody and you’re right, because Alabama-Birmingham, North Texas, Texas Southern and Nicholls State are no great shakes, nor is Tulsa, a fine program, but just 3-6 right now.
Good news, if your Sooner fandom is so great that you enjoy scouting who might stand in the way come June, Louisiana and second-ranked Alabama meet at 6 p.m. today in Lafayette and you can watch it on ESPN+.
Back to OU.
See those numbers up there, before the Rajin’ Cajun rabbit hole?
They’re stratospheric, Ruthian, Barry Bonds-on-the-juice-ian, utterly and totally insane … and yet OU’s offense was fractionally better a year ago for the entire season.
In 2021, over 60 games, OU hit .405, slugged .778 and and got on base 49 percent of the time.
But if that’s a tad more impressive that what OU’s bats have managed 10 games into this season, what OU’s done in the circle is all of that and more.
Across the country, 17 different pitchers lead the nation with identical 0.00 earned run averages. Three of those 17 — freshman Jordy Bahl (20 1/3 innings pitched), senior Hope Trautwein (17), sophomore Nicole May (16) — are Sooners.
OU has allowed two runs this season, both unearned, and who’s ever heard of a 0.00 earned run average for an entire team?
Which leads to this:
Though Gasso has guided the program to five national championships, this band of Sooners has the potential to be so dominant, in the box and the circle, as to make the regular season, even the regional and super regional rounds, irrelevant. Just absolutely, positively and historically irrelevant.
Like, can’t we just skip all this and go straight to Hall of Fame Stadium?
A year ago, you could say that about the regular season. The Sooners plated 29 runs against UTEP opening day and never really slowed down. There were, though, pitching questions. It wasn’t clear if any of OU’s arms could handcuff a World Series field.
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May looked like the best possibility, until Giselle Juarez completed perhaps the greatest comeback in the history of the sport. The No. 3 pitcher on her own team until the World Series, she regained and surpassed the form she offered hurling the Sooners to the brink of the 2019 national championship.
It was inspiring and amazing.
This bunch of Sooners may not face that problem.
May is a year older, better, more experienced and Bahl, who’s already tossed OU past No. 3 UCLA, may be a prodigy, comparing favorably to even the great Keilani Ricketts and Paige Parker.
What it recalls, if your brain can go there, is Sooner football, circa 2003.
Bob Stoops’ fifth season, OU faced a close call at Alabama in Week 2, but a fake punt led to a 47-yard TD toss from Jason White to Brandon Jones, the Sooners escaped 20-13 and from there they beat the rest of their schedule prior to the Big 12 title game by 21 to 77 points; all but Colorado, in Boulder, which it beat 34-20. Folks wondered if OU be the best team ever.
Each week it felt like the same thing: can’t we just get to the postseason now?
So great through 12 games, after inexplicably falling to Darren Sproles and the Wildcats 35-7, the computers still tabbed OU No. 1 headed to New Orleans to meet LSU for the national championship.
That didn’t go well either.
That doesn’t matter in this discussion.
What matters is the regular season felt like a bunch of exhibitions, like the games hardly counted, like nothing was on the line, like what it might feel like if Porter Moser’s Sooners could play Rogers State every game.
That’s where Patty Gasso, hired by the great Marita Hynes so many years ago, has the Sooners.
Better, she’s done it without looking anything like Bobby Knight, Geno Auriemma, Pat Summit or Mike Candrea, great coaches all, each noted for various ranges of insufferableness.
If her program’s dominance has become monotonous, her players appear to be having fun, a concept that might have been captured not so long ago, her charges queried for the secret sauce.
“She talks a lot about having the joy of the journey,” Sydney Romero told me.
Friday in Palm Springs, the joy continues.