They traveled all the way to the NCAA Women’s College World Series Championship Series.
In fact, twice they were within one game of winning the program’s second national championship.
After taking the first game 4-1 over Alabama in the best-of-three title series, the Sooners had an early 1-0 lead over the Crimson Tide in game two but surrendered eight unanswered runs and ultimately fell 8-6, setting up the decisive game.
They then leaped out to what appeared to be a safe 3-0 lead in the winner-take-all finale, but weather set in and the rest is history.
The Crimson Tide stormed back and stole the national championship from the Sooners, sending them into the offseason one win shy of their ultimate goal and with a lot of added extra motivation because of it.
“I think they just felt a lot of unfinished business,” said OU head coach Patty Gasso Wednesday at Media Day. “Honestly they were still in absolute shock. It’s just a little bit different because when the season’s over, they’re gone. They go home or they go wherever they’re going and so we don’t really as a team get to talk a lot about what transpired besides what happens with our team right after the game.
“So, when we brought it up before our first practice and stood with them in the locker room and brought it up, you could see the emotion. They still feel it. You know, it’s not something you shake off and say ‘Oh well.’ They tasted it. They had their hand on that trophy. They knew it, so they’re just very much driven right now.”
First baseman Lauren Chamberlain, the Big 12 single season home run leader with her 30 a year ago and player that Gasso calls the “best hitter she has ever coached,” can attest to that fact.
“We’re definitely hungry and like I said before, I think we’re more taking the positives out of those experiences than the negative,” Chamberlain said. “I mean, obviously we’re pretty pumped up and fired up about it, but at the same time we know that we got the good experience of being at the height of softball, the pinnacle of where softball is at. So, we know coming back we are experienced in that way and we know what we have to do to work harder to win that national championship.”
Really it just comes down to preciseness and finishing.
The Sooners—granted there were some adverse circumstances—simply didn’t seal the deal when they had their two chances to do so.
So, that will be the focus this time around.
They’ll have eight of their nine starting position players to do so, including Chamberlain, along with USA Softball Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts (37-9 last season) and star catcher Jessica Shults.
OU also brings in eight newcomers, including seven freshman and Arizona transfer Shelby Pendley, who pounded out 19 home runs a season ago with her Arizona Wildcats, whom the Sooners ousted in the Norman Super Regional.
“Well, last season we had a great season and, you know, the thing is our team was very competitive and we have a lot of girls from last season and we’re really experienced and so that just carries over,” Ricketts said. “And so there’s a lot of competition between all the positions, and I think that’s gonna help us be even more competitive than we were.”
The Sooners get the season rolling with a 10 a.m. CT contest against Stanford in Phoenix, Ariz.
They’ll play five games there, including other contests against Oregon State, Oregon, New Mexico and Northwestern.
OU doesn’t have a home game until it hosts former conference foe Nebraska March 1.
Gasso's press conference: part I:
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