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COLUMN: Patty Gasso's Sooners Are Quickly Running Out of Challengers

Winners of 34 straight games, Oklahoma is just finding its stride.

Oklahoma was supposed to take a small step back toward the pack this year.

At least that’s what normal programs do.

Patty Gasso’s Sooners won their second consecutive national title last year, but had to replace major pieces in the offseason.

Jocelyn Alo, the best power hitter in the history of the sport, got a fitting curtain call in the seventh inning of last year’s Women’s College World Series.

As Alo exited stage left, Oklahoma’s sheen of invincibility was supposed to follow.

But the Sooners had to replace more than just Alo.

Hope Trautwein only spent one year in Norman, but the super senior was a dominant force in the circle.

Gasso needed to find answers at first and third base after Taylon Snow and Jana Johns’ reliable defense and timely offense also graduated. NFCA Freshman of the Year Jordy Bahl sustained an injury that essentially wiped away her postseason, meaning there would be a rehab process to get her firing back close to 100 percent.

The parity that swept across the sport was finally supposed to apply to Oklahoma again, who lost just seven combined games in 2021 and 2022.

Gasso hit the transfer portal hard, landing Michigan pitcher Alex Storako, sluggers Cydney Sanders and Alynah Torres from Arizona State and Texas A&M power hitter Haley Lee.

Outside of an early slip up in Waco (Oklahoma then outscored Baylor 13-0 across three games this past weekend), the Sooners have been able to maintain the same lofty standard.

OU once again leads the nation in both batting average and ERA while making run-saving play after run-saving play on defense, and they’re actually ahead of schedule on the home front.

OU’s 34-game winning streak has included a perfect run through the Big 12 to date.

The past two years, Oklahoma has had to win the final series of the regular season to wrap up the conference crown.

“What we’re really focusing on is trying to win a conference championship,” Gasso said last week. “It has to go through Waco. And it has to go through Stillwater. We cannot have hiccups.”

While Gasso’s sentiment is correct, in reality the Big 12 runs through Norman.

Texas swept OSU this past weekend, handing the Cowgirls their fourth conference loss this year.

Oklahoma’s sweep of the Longhorns, paired with Kansas’ shock victory over Texas, means the Sooners just have to sweep the Jayhawks next weekend to notch their 11th straight regular season conference crown.

Potentially only bragging rights will be on the line in Bedlam, a departure from the battles the past two years.

As the Sooners have glided through Big 12 play, the rest of the country hasn’t had much luck either — though not because of a lack of chances.

Gasso loaded up her non-conference schedule this year, a big reason why OU boasts the nation’s best RPI.

The Sooners have notched 19 wins against teams in last week’s NFCA Coaches Poll, and there is still a midweek trip to No. 23 Wichita State and a three-game set against No. 3 Oklahoma State on the schedule.

Eight of those 19 wins came against teams ranked in the top 10, including a 14-0 embarrassment of the UCLA Bruins, a midweek victory over the Florida State Seminoles and a sweep over the Longhorns.

Oklahoma pitcher Alex Storako pitched five scoreless innings against UCLA this year, allowing just three hits and striking out five Bruins

Oklahoma pitcher Alex Storako pitched five scoreless innings against UCLA this year, allowing just three hits and striking out five Bruins

OU’s demolition of the Bruins didn’t come at the fortress that is Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, either, as the Sooners marched right into UCLA’s backyard and won in California.

The Bruins and the Seminoles are surging right now, but the Sooners have seen most of both teams’ pitching staffs and have taken their game to another level from when they matched up with them earlier this season.

Bahl is back to looking herself.

Storako has put together her best season — resulting in her getting selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the Women’s Professional Fastpitch Draft.

Right-handed pitcher Nicole May is also enjoying her best season in a Sooner uniform, creating a bonafide three-headed monster in the circle.

Jayda Coleman has added power to her already loud game that features show-stopping defensive plays and an incredibly efficient on-base percentage.

Oklahoma’s lineup has been so balanced, the Sooners have withstood brief absences from both Kinzie Hansen and Grace Lyons during the season’s grueling non-conference slate.

And somehow OU could be more dangerous offensively.

Sanders, who hit 21 home runs last year as a freshman at Arizona State, has recently rediscovered her power.

Three of her four bombs have happened over the past two weekends, adding another landmine to the Sooner lineup.

No one won back-to-back-to-back National Championships since UCLA achieved the feat over 30 years ago.

With the postseason inching ever closer, it’s hard to envision anyone standing in Oklahoma's way. 

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