OKLAHOMA CITY — As Oklahoma attempted to claim another national title in softball, I reminisced on my first year here at the Constitution.
That summer, I covered the Sooners’ pursuit of the 2017 national championship. And as I looked back on that title run, digging through old articles and video clips, I began to compare that team to Patty Gasso’s 2021 group that eventually claimed the school’s fifth national title on Thursday. And while there were similarities, the differences were stark, and make for fascinating arguments about which team will be remembered as the more dominant.
Dominance aside, I believe this team should be and will be remembered as one of the more resilient teams in recent memory.
This year’s team was No. 1 for much of the year, had a nearly unstoppable offense and had only lost twice heading to Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, as hard as it is to believe, that 2017 team didn’t even host a super regional. That team was marked by dominant pitching with the duo of Paige Parker and Paige Lowary. This team was perceived to have no true ace of the staff. That was before G Juarez’s outstanding performances in the final series.
That 2017 group wasn’t necessarily a favorite to win it all at first, but marched through the WCWS without a loss. While this group of Sooners was viewed as heavy favorites heading into the tournament, they had their backs against the ropes often. They lost to an unheralded, unseeded underdog in Day 1 (a team we would later figure out was no one’s Cinderella) and had to fight back just to get to the final series. There, they were outcoached, outplayed and outwitted in many respects in Game 1 vs. FSU. It was one game away from ending in horrific fashion for the crimson-clad faithful.
But once again, the Sooners revenge tour motored on, avenging yet another defeat — twice. And just as had been the case so often, the bats of Jocelyn Alo and Tiare Jennings came to the rescue. But it was also players like Lynnsie Elam and Jayda Coleman providing the big plays.
Above all else, this team may be remembered as the “comeback kids”. But I think it should also be remembered as one of Patty Gasso’s best coaching jobs.