The No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (57-3) will look to add exclamation point to the end of a historic season with a sixth national championship in program history and a second straight title.
Standing in your way is a known enemy.
The Best Two-of-Three Women’s College World Series will also serve as the latest edition of the higher-stakes than usual Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma vs Texas? More like David versus Goliath. Come Friday (or Thursday) night, who will hold the softball competition’s biggest prize?
Arguably the most dominant softball program of the decade, Wednesday marks OU’s third straight championship series, seventh in the last 10 years, and eighth all-time.
The last time Oklahoma won back-to-back titles (a feat equaled only by UCLA, Arizona and Florida) was in 2016 and 2017.
The Longhorns (47-20-1), meanwhile, were charging towards their first championship series, happily blasting the brackets with their wake. With a comeback win Monday against No. 7 Oklahoma State, Texas became the first unseeded team in NCAA history to advance to the Finals. Texas’ 4-1 WCWS record (only one game against Oklahoma, lost 7-2 on June 4) stands in stark contrast to their 5-7 record earlier in the season.
Jocelyn Alo and other keys to Oklahoma’s success
OU leads the NCAA in team batting averages (.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 best hitter college softball has ever seen. She is the NCAA’s all-time all-time home run hitter at 120 and was the first player to hit three 30-plus home run seasons during the WCWS (vs. Texas!). Her batting average this season, a .509, is good enough for second place in the NCAA.
Oklahoma’s lead within the circle is also clutch. RHP Hope Trautwein, who joined Norman this year from North Texas, has only allowed 14 runs through 121 innings. On Monday night, she hit six of five innings to win OU 15-0 over UCLA, the biggest win in WCWS history and Oklahoma’s 40th Run Rule win of the season (again, a record held by the next-best division I mark of 20 doubles from Louisiana). The win was Trautwein’s 21st, taking her win odds to .954. OU as a whole has the lowest ERA in the NCAA at 0.97
Why Texas can’t be counted out
While it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the Sooners lifting the championship trophy by the end of the week, dismissing the Longhorns entirely seems unwise. One of Oklahoma’s three losses this season came from Texas (4-2 in Austin, OU beat UT in their other three meetings). The Longhorns have momentum from a three-game winning streak fueling them and support from Texas great Cat Osterman in the stands. And even if they fall behind, the Longhorns have 18 comeback wins this season, so who knows how close that streak could be.
The Rising Popularity of WCWS and Softball
Regardless of who wins, history has been made. Historically good softball is played to an historical number of eyeballs.
ESPN reported that its Thursday show from Oregon State-Florida and Northwestern-Oklahoma averaged 901,000 viewers. Before that, the superregional between Texas and Arkansas averaged 1.02 million. Saturday’s doubleheader drew a record 12,533 fans to Oklahoma City for the day.
This was announced by the network Game 1 of the semi-final 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 an encounter — on ESPN Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. could promise more of the same.