Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
How to put Sooner softball in its proper perspective? Try really, really hard
What is there to say about coach Patty Gasso’s Oklahoma softball team that that hasn’t been said already?
Not much, but we’re going to give it a try.
It seems appropriate, given what happened Saturday afternoon inside Hall of Fame Stadium, where the top-ranked Sooners stopped No. 7 Texas 6-1 for the Big 12 tournament crown.
The victory pushed OU’s season mark to 51-1, it’s winning streak to 43 games and did nothing to get in the way of all the stats in which it already led the nation.
About that, here’s a review.
Batting average: .368
Earned run average: 0.86
Fielding percentage: .989
Though those may be the big three, they’re just the beginning of a list that additionally includes …
On-base percentage: .464
Slugging percentage: .668
Home runs per game: 1.82
Doubles per game: 1.92
Runs per game: 8.13
It’s the facts.
There’s not enough grandiosity available to explain it. Nor, perhaps, any context in which such dominance can be fully digested … well, other than in comparison to last year’s national championship winning Sooners, who exited the World Series hitting .367, getting on base .474, slugging .726, scoring 9.1 runs per game, hitting 2.45 home runs per game and 125 in all.
But let’s try and start here.
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Texas committed one error.
It was an abominable miscue.
Longhorn center fielder Bella Dayton failed to make a simple throw from short left-center field to second base, where the throw’s supposed to go when a soft-liner falls in for single, which is just what Jordy Bahl — yes, her! — delivered her one trip to the plate.
Not backed up, the throw allowed Avery Hodge, running for Haley Lee, to score OU’s fifth run and for Bahl to get all the way to third base. Bahl then came home on Kinzie Hansen’s ground out, yet because pinch-hitting Grace Green smacked a long two-out single into the right-center field gap before the frame was done, that lone Longhorn error produced no unearned Sooner runs.
So it’s a wash, right?
Well, not really.
Absolutely stellar Texas defense might have allowed no runs.
It might have allowed no runs because only Hodge’s fantastic read of Bahl’s soft liner allowed her to get from first base to third base in the first place, and had she not done that, Dayton’s error would not have allowed her to cross.
Also, with no error, Bahl doesn’t get to third base, or even to second, and had she been left at first, the ground out that scored her, sharply hit by Hansen, might have been a double play instead, ending the inning.
Point being, the pressure the Sooners put on a defense is kind of immeasurable.
In addition to all those nation-leading numbers, the Sooners can make their own decisions on the base paths and wind up scoring more runs than they probably should. And if somebody makes an actual bad throw, they’ll score more.
Bahl actually entered the game as a pinch runner in the bottom of the fourth inning before moving into the circle to relieve Nicole May in the top of the fifth.
Thanks to a single from Lee and a double from Alyssa Brito earlier in the frame, OU had already taken the lead for good before Bahl arrived on the bases. It then pushed its advantage to 3-1 because Brito took third base on the throw home to get Lee, setting her up to score on Texas starter Citlaly Gutierrez’s wild pitch.
Then Bahl appeared, running for Alynah Torres, who’d drawn a walk. She then stole second base, despite the throw from Texas catcher Reese Atwood being in time, only for shortstop Viviana Martinez to not get low enough to field it where Bahl would have slid right into it.
Not an error.
Just another play that could have been made.
Bahl then came home on Rylie Boone’s single … in part because Martinez failed to come up with Atwood’s throw a minute or two earlier; in part because, in addition to being the Big 12’s best pitcher since conference play began, she’s a terrific baserunner who got a lightning jump of the crack of the bat and only accelerated rounding third; and entirely because this is what OU does.
Error free defense against the Sooners is not enough. Instead, perfect defense is required and had the Longhorns played it … well, they still would have lost, but by 2-1 or 3-1 instead.
It’s the craziest thing.
OU hits the ball better than any team in the nation. Hits for power and gets on base better than any team in the nation. Pitches better than any team in the nation. Fields better than any team in the nation, too.
And on top of all of it, when you really break it down, the Sooners are still somehow better than the sum of their parts, too.
All season, they’ve lost once.
They may not lose again.