Oklahoma softball completes four-peat national championship at the WCWS and it was the hardest yet (2024)

Oklahoma softball completes four-peat national championship at the WCWS and it was the hardest yet (1)

Not one, not two, not three …


And for the Sooners, the fourth was the hardest.

Division-I college softball had never seen a four-peat national champion. Not until Thursday night in Oklahoma City, when Oklahoma beat Texas 8-4to sweep the championship series.

“People say, ‘Let’s go win one,’” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said. “You’re like, ‘OK.’ It’s not like that. It’s very difficult. Everything has to go right. The thing about them is they’re resilient. They have a lot of pride in that.

“With that, it’s hard for me to comprehend.”

It’s been a presidential term of dominance for the Sooners. The Fab Five of Rylie Boone, Kinzie Hansen, Nicole May, Tiare Jennings and Jayda Coleman have 20 rings between them. They won as freshmen, won as seniors, won as sophom*ore and juniors.

“This one was the hardest one that I’ve ever had to work for in my life,” Jennings said. “This team, the adversity that we went through, we did it and we overcame everything.”

“This team has fought and fought all season long,” Hansen said.

Added Boone: “This was the most grinding one.”

A four-peat.

It’s ridiculous, really. A feat without precedence on the softball diamond. Four seasons ending in dog piles and confetti angels, of the Sooners flipping bats and raising trophies.

“We expect ourselves here, which is crazy to expect yourself winning the national championship every year,” May said.

Four-peats have only happened on other fields of play. Among the notable ones this century: Penn State volleyball (2007-10), Connecticut women’s basketball (2013-16), Oklahoma men’s gymnastics (2015-18).

In Division I, only Stanford men’s gymnastics, with five straight, has a longer active streak of national championships. Twelve teams compete in Division I men’s gymnastics compared to softball’s 291.

“We knew it was historic,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said on the field after the game. “Of course we wanted to finish it off. I don’t know that I can truly verbalize how magnificent this is.”

May also struggled to describe it.

“Being a part of something that hasn’t been done before is pretty special, especially with this group,” May said. “I don’t think it’ll hit me, it never hits me for another couple weeks.”

Oklahoma softball joins Southern California beach volleyball and Virginia women’s swimming and diving in active four-peats.

Needless to stay, college softball is played on a much grander stage.

A championship record crowd of 12,324 packed Devon Park. Those who didn’t have a seat were lined up three and four deep on the concourse. Every pitch landed with a thud of anxious anticipation. Then the Sooners broke the game open with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Sooner-heavy crowd was jubilant.

Oklahoma softball completes four-peat national championship at the WCWS and it was the hardest yet (2)

In the seventh inning, Boone told herself not to cry.

“Please don’t do that,” Boone said, “because if they hit a grand slam I’m kinda screwed.”

Gasso even toyed with Texas, at least it seemed, en route to winning her eight national title — tying former Arizona coach Mike Candrea for the most in softball history. Gasso and pitching coach Jennifer Rocha tinkered with their pitching rotation like never before.

The Sooners started Liberty transfer Karlie Keeney in the circle. The only move more surprising than that was who replaced her: Wisconsin transfer Paytn Monticelli. The Sooners used their No. 4 and 5 pitchers to open a national championship closeout game.

May followed, then Kierston Deal. Finally, it was Kelly Maxwell who entered as closer. Maxwell was named the WCWS Most Outstanding Player.

“It worked exactly how it was supposed to,” Gasso said. “To a T.”

It was a difficult year for Maxwell, ostracized for crossing Bedlam lines and transferring in after four years at Oklahoma State.

The rest of the Sooners concocted obstacles if necessary.

“Everybody hates us, no one wants us to win anymore, but that’s fine,” May said. “We just got a fourth, so it’s OK.”

The three-time defending champions convinced themselves that they were underdogs entering the series against No. 1-seeded Texas - a team they had split four games against during the regular season and Big 12 tournament..

“There were so many times that we could’ve been defeated … ‘Are they gonna do it, are they not?’ But we just fought,” Boone said. “There was a lot of failure, more than what at least this class is used to and this team is used to. The adversity, I think it helped us be able to stand here and say that we won a fourth one.”

The Sooners have been crowned champs in six of the last eight Women's College World Series. In what used to be a West Coast-dominated sport, this century has belonged to Gasso’s Sooners.

Eight national championships. Four in four years.

“Just unreal,” said Jennings, still catching her breath. “We just did the impossible.”

Oklahoma softball completes four-peat national championship at the WCWS and it was the hardest yet (2024)


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