[rotated_ad] Are the 2022 Oklahoma Sooners the best softball team ever? -

Are the 2022 Oklahoma Sooners the best softball team ever?

By Jordan Shusterman
FOX Sports MLB Writer

With all due respect to other teams that set out to win a Division I Softball National Championship in 2022, I’m not sure anyone else has ever had a real chance.

Of course, the mighty Oklahoma Sooners have lost three games this season en route to their sixth championship in program history and their fifth in the past nine years. They were even down three sets in Game 2 of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series on Thursday against Texas – the team that handed them their first loss of the year on April 16, after the Sooners started the season with a Division I record 38-0 – before confidently coming back to a 10-5 win.

No, Oklahoma was not entirely invincible. But anyone who watched this amazing team this spring knew they were to witness something specialsomething historic, something unstoppable.

The Sooners went 59-3 in 2022, good for a .952 winning percentage, the third-highest in Div. I have softball history behind only 1992 UCLA (54-2, .964 W%) and 1994 Arizona (64-3, .955 W%). Forty of OU’s 59 wins have come via the run rule (i.e., leading by eight runs after five innings). The Sooners offense has overwhelmed the opposition all season, including on the biggest stage in Oklahoma City, where they broke several WCWS records:

They were led by Jocelyn Alo, the most powerful hitter the sport has ever seen, whose legendary career ended appropriately: as a champion.

With her junior season in 2020 cut short due to the pandemic, Alo was able to return to the Sooners for a fifth year as a “super-senior” in 2022. She entered the season needing just eight homers. to pass former Sooner slugger Lauren Chamberlain’s mark of 95 for most home runs in Div. I have softball history.

In fairy tale fashion, Alo, a native of Hauula, Hawaii, threw the No. 96 home run on March 11 in front of his hometown crowd.

Then it was just a matter of how high she could set the new bar. Alo finished the season with an impressive 1,858 OPS and 34 home runs, including five in the WCWS, bringing his career total to a staggering 122 – a mark that may not be touched in our lifetime.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, that’s because this is the second straight year Oklahoma has won a national championship thanks to a juggernaut roster with Alo as the headliner. In fact, you could say that last year’s roster was even better than this year’s offensive unit.

2021 Sooners offense in 60 games: .405/.490/.778 (1.268 OPS), 638 runs scored (10.63 ppg), 110 doubles, 161 home runs, 238 walks, 161 strikeouts, 65 stolen bases

2022 Sooners offense in 62 games: .371/.474/.734 (1.208 OPS), 579 runs scored (9.33 ppg), 82 doubles, 155 homers, 268 walks, 161 strikeouts, 60 stolen bases

So what made this 2022 team better than last year’s team, which went 56-4 and won it all? (And how could that even be possible?) The pitching got even better.

2021 Sooners pitchers in 60 games: 357.1 innings pitched, 2.49 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 0.184 BAA, 233 hits, 115 walks, 426 strikeouts, 44 home runs, 23 shutouts

Sooners pitcher in 2022 in 62 games: 361.0 innings pitched, 1.05 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 0.144 BAA, 178 hits, 121 walks, 463 strikeouts, 15 home runs, 33 shutouts

While seven of the 2021 team’s nine starters have returned, only one of its key pitchers — right-winger Nicole May — has returned this season following the graduations of Giselle Juarez and Shannon Saile. That meant head coach Patty Gasso had plenty of innings to replace in the circle. And even though Gasso knew whoever pitched would receive huge run support, the standard at Norman is very high, so it was no surprise to see her bring in two incredible pitchers to help fuel another championship run.

The first was freshman Jordy Bahl. Growing up just outside of Omaha, Nebraska, Bahl was originally committed to playing for the Cornhuskers when she was in eighth grade, but changed her commitment to the Sooners after bursting onto the scene. as one of the best pitchers in the country as a junior. at secondary school. She was the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior at Papillion-LaVista High School, and she carried that momentum into her freshman season at Norman, where it didn’t take long for her to show up at the national softball audience as a force to be reckoned with.

In 2022, she posted a 1.09 ERA with 205 strikeouts in 141.1 innings.

Although she suffered a forearm injury that sidelined her for much of the final month of this season, Bahl was able to start Game 2 of the Championship Series and maintained the ‘Oklahoma in the game until the offense comes to life.

His presence in the circle is as intimidating as the thing itself, and it’s clearly just the start of what is sure to be a busy career with the Sooners.

Unlike Bahl, Hope Trautwein was not a promising prospect during her prep career at Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, Texas. She ended up going to the University of North Texas, where she became one of Conference-USA’s top pitchers.

Last year, Trautwein captured national attention when she struck out all 21 in a perfect game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But Trautwein first appeared on Gasso’s radar a year ago, when she closed out a win for North Texas at Norman on February 28, 2020, which also happens to be the last time Oklahoma lost a game at home. The Sooners have since won 46 straight home games, unbeaten in 2021 and 2022.

Like Alo, Trautwein had another year of eligibility after her senior season in 2021, and she opted to transfer to Oklahoma. His career numbers at North Texas were outstanding: a 2.05 ERA with 693 strikeouts in 598.2 innings pitched and a 61-24 record. But it was worth wondering if that dominance would translate into tougher competition in the Big 12.

Well, it certainly is: Trautwein posted a 0.77 ERA in 126.2 innings for the Sooners and played on the biggest stage of the game when her team needed her most. She even got her own hashtag, which the Oklahoma softball Twitter account has never been shy about using: #HopeIsDope. Strongly agree.

The dynamic duo of Trautwein and Bahl – along with the continued excellence of May, who posted a 1.30 ERA in 91.2 innings of work – demonstrates why Oklahoma has been so dominant over the past decade. . From recruiting the best high school players in the country to bringing in potential superstars through the transfer portal, Gasso has ensured the roster maintains an exceptionally high level of talent no matter what.

Now you might be wondering: will the Sooners be able to do it again next year? A hat-trick has only happened once in Division I softball history (UCLA, 1988-90).

Let’s start with the obvious: there is no replacement for Alo. There are still some incredible players on this list, but Alo is a unique presence at the top of the roster, and we may not see another player like her for a very long time – if ever.

Additionally, Alo isn’t the only major contributor the Sooners will need to replace. Trautwein, third baseman Jana Johns, first baseman Taylon Snow and catcher Lynnsie Elam will also graduate. These are not only crucial bats to replace, but also important spots in the infield that will need to be backfilled.

Then again, there’s still so much talent on this roster that no one would be so surprised if the Sooners entered 2023 ranked No. 1 and made a run at another national championship.

Bahl will remain the headliner of the circle as she continues to establish herself as one of the best pitchers in the country. May will be back for her first year. On offense, Tiare Jennings – who had a historic start to his career, with an astonishing 46 home runs in his first two seasons – will surely lead the charge, with powerhouse outfielder Jayda Coleman leading the way.

Senior shortstop Grace Lyons has another year of eligibility, which we can assume she’ll use, but we don’t know for sure. His return, given his spectacular short-court defense and newfound power at the plate, would be huge for OU.

Wide receiver Kinzie Hansen, whose injuries limited her playing more of a squad role in 2022 after being All-American in 2021, is also expected to be back. There are also several talented freshmen besides Bahl who haven’t had a lot of playing time this year but will surely see more action on the court as spots open up.

Nor should you be shocked to learn that the Sooners are bringing four highly touted rookies, including the top pitcher of the Class of 2022, a southpaw from North Carolina named Kierston Deal. And it seems extremely likely that the Sooners will bring in another talented player or two via the transfer portal.

The years of the Alo-led dynasty may be over, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that the next wave of Sooner stars will surely keep Oklahoma at or near the top of the world of football. softball for years to come.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He lives in DC but is a huge Seattle Mariners fan and loves watching the KBO, which means he doesn’t sleep much. You can follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.

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