Oklahoma closes out record season with 7th NCAA softball title

June 10th, 2023

Oklahoma’s decade of dominance continues. In front of more than 12,000 fans on Thursday night at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City, the Sooners completed the three-peat for only the second time in Women’s College World Series history, joining the 1988-90 UCLA Bruins. The Sooners won their sixth title in the last 10 seasons while also maintaining a 53-game win streak, the longest in Division I college softball history.

Oklahoma (61-1) swept the best-of-three series from Florida State, winning 5-0 in Game 1 and 3-1 in Game 2.

“There aren’t words to describe this feeling. I woke up a three-time back-to-back national champion, and that’s not something anybody but my team and staff get to say,” said Nicole May, a junior All Big 12 First Team pitcher and top 25 finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year. “It’s very emotional, and I cried a lot of happy tears and tears of relief last night. It was a hard but deserving year.

“Being at such a high level, sometimes me and my team don’t even realize how good we are. We get a lot of hate and criticism -- people say we’re too dramatic, and celebrate too much, but those people have no idea what we went through to get to where we’re at. So as the confetti is flying, I’m crying because we just three-peated. I’m crying because of how proud I am of all of us for getting through the year and dominating, and because of the amazing team I have beside me. The most rewarding part of it all is the journey we all took to get here together, and I’m so grateful to be here.”

Coming into this final series, both teams were undefeated not only in WCWS play, but in all postseason play thus far.

Both softball squads had expectations and plenty to prove. Florida State, the No. 3 national seed, came off a heartbreaking end to its season last year when it became the first-ever No. 2 overall seed to lose in their regional. OU came into this season with expectations to repeat and came into the championship series riding a 51-game win streak (their only loss this season was to Baylor on Feb. 19).

OU led the nation in nearly every category, including batting average, home runs per game, slugging percentage and fielding percentage.

Game 1 featured OU sophomore All American pitcher Jordy Bahl and third team All-ACC senior for Florida State, Mack Leonard. The series began with a 70-minute weather delay, with another 43-minute lightning delay four outs into the game, but the stoppages didn’t affect Oklahoma’s energy on either side of the ball.

After three scoreless innings, the Seminoles’ pitching staff couldn’t contain a Sooners lineup in which eight starters have a .320-plus batting average. Kinzie Hansen drove in the first run with a double in the fourth, and Brito followed with an RBI single, extending OU’s lead to 3-0.

The Sooners added a pair of runs in the fifth and sixth. One came from All-American second baseman Tiare Jennings, who broke the all-time WCWS RBI record with her 29th RBI, passing her former teammate, two-time National Player of the Year and all-time college softball home run leader Jocelyn Alo.

The one bright spot for Florida State was Kaley Mudge’s robbery of what would have been a three-run homer by Haley Lee, preventing OU’s run rule in the sixth inning. The rest of the game was all Oklahoma, featuring a gem from Bahl, who pitched seven scoreless innings and only gave up two hits while striking out 10.

The Sooners outscored opponents by 370 runs throughout the season.

“I always know the offense is going to get going. Especially this entire tournament, we've faced some really tough pitching, but I know they're going to score runs,” Bahl said. “I just try to do my best to throw a good game and let the defense work, knowing that the offense is going to come through.”

Game 2 started off in similar fashion, with three scoreless innings thrown by Florida State’s All-American Kat Sandercock and OU’s senior, Alex Storako. Part of that was due to Oklahoma’s center fielder and the Big 12 Player of the Year, Jayda Coleman, robbing Kalei Harding of a home run.

Leonard, the Game 3 starting pitcher, opened up the scoring with a solo shot in the bottom of the 4th. OU answered right back with back-to-back solo homers in the top of the fifth by Cydney Sanders and Grace Lyons to give OU a 2-1 lead. That also marked Oklahoma’s 500th run scored in the 2023 season -- the Sooners' third straight season doing so. They’re the only team in Division I softball history to achieve this feat.

After OU grabbed the lead, in came Bahl. Not only did she pinch-run to score an insurance run in the sixth inning and make it 3-1, but she pitched three more scoreless innings to bring her NCAA tournament ERA under 0.20, and she earned herself the WCWS Most Outstanding Player.

Led by head coach Patty Gasso, who is now tied for second all-time with seven national championships, Oklahoma finished with a 61-1 record and a .984 win percentage -- another all-time best in Division I history.

Grace Lyons, the Sooners’ senior shortstop captain, talked about how their team feeds off the success standard Gasso instills.

“I would just say greatness elevates greatness. We know [Patty’s] great and successful. ... That elevates us. It goes vice versa. In life and in softball. Full circle,” Lyons said. “It's just so cool to see just success, but so much more than that that she appreciates.”

Anna Laible is a teenage reporter for Sports Illustrated Kids, and hosts her own podcast called Speak Up Sports.