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Oklahoma Giddy For Record-Breaking Setting to Open Texas Series on Friday

A new regular season attendance record will be set in Friday's series opener between Oklahoma and Texas in a National Championship rematch at Hall of Fame Stadium.

Oklahoma softball is once again rewriting the record books.

Friday, the top-ranked Sooners will host the No. 9 Texas Longhorns in a rematch of last year’s Women’s College World Series Championship.

The series opener will be hosted at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, where just under 9,000 fans are expected to be in attendance.

Arizona and Fresno State currently hold the record for the largest crowd to view a regular season game, as 5,724 fans were in attendance on March 14, 2000 to watch a double-header.

This crowd will blow that number out of the water, comfortably setting the new record for non-WCWS college softball game.

Patty Gasso has seen plenty of history throughout her tenure as the head coach at Oklahoma, but even she never imagined her team would take the field in an environment like what OU and Texas will see on Friday.

How to Watch Oklahoma vs. Texas:

  • Game 1: Friday, 6 p.m., ESPN+, Hall of Fame Stadium
  • Game 2: Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN2, Marita Hynes Field
  • Game 3: Sunday, 11 a.m., ESPN2, Marita Hynes Field

“I will tell you after having done this for so long, I never thought in a million years that it would turn out like this with fans coming out,” Gasso said on Wednesday. “And sellouts happening. And now we’re at the Hall of Fame where there’s 10,000 seats and we’re selling that out, or close to it, for a conference game but not a postseason game. It’s a tribute to this team and other teams like Texas. People want to see good matchups. They want to see good athletes playing hard and in competitive environments. It’s going to be fun.

“I’m just so proud of the Sooners fans. They’ve all been lining up out here trying to get in. So now we finally have enough seats and they’ve still in the seats. I’m really proud of that.”

The record-setting crowd should be treated to a great matchup, as both Mike White’s Longhorns (30-5-1) and Gasso’s Sooners (30-1) have replaced key pieces from last year’s teams.

Janae Jefferson, Mary Iakopo and Hailey Dolcini all led the charge for Texas last year, and no longer roam the dugouts in Austin.

Still, Texas’ offense is a threat. The Longhorns enter the weekend ranking fourth in batting average in the country, hitting .351 as a team.

Infielders Leighann Goode, Mia Scott and Viviana Martinez are now the leaders of the Texas attack, consistently getting on base and stealing bases to put pressure on opposing pitching staffs.

SB - Jocelyn Alo, 2022 WCWS

Oklahoma dominated Texas in last year's Women's College World Series Championship Series

“They’ve got some good speed,” Gasso said. “They try to create a little bit of chaos on an infield or an outfield. They’ll keep running. They’re not afraid to be very aggressive.

“So I think the style is the same, the makeup is just a little bit different. But their numbers look like they haven’t missed a beat.”

In the circle, White’s pitching staff ranks No. 17-overall with a team ERA of 1.89.

Mac Morgan, Citlaly Gutierrez, Estelle Czech and Sophia Simpson have all made at least 14 appearances this year, pitching at least 41 innings each.

Morgan, a right-handed transfer from Arizona State, paces the ‘Horns with 13 starts and 79 innings pitched, but she’s not the same strikeout threat as her teammates. Her 2.13 ERA is the worst on the team, and she has the fewest strikeouts of any Texas pitcher with 47 on the year despite facing the most batters.

But Morgan doesn’t often help the opponent out, only issuing 12 walks on the season.

Czech represents a different challenge from her three teammates, as she’s the only lefty on the staff.

Oklahoma will have to be on top of the scouting report for all four pitchers this week, as the Sooners’ opponents haven’t been afraid to roll through multiple pitchers in one game this season.

“Four pitchers that have thrown really strong innings, that give you all kinds of different looks,” Gasso said. “We’re out here trying to really measure ourselves up against a lefty, 70 miles-an-hour, hard-in-on left-handed hitters, hard-in-on right handed hitters.

“We’ve got to be able to cover the plate. So pitching is a good, strong point for them.”

To get after Texas’ pitchers and avoid mistakes in the field that will allow the Longhorns to run, the Sooners will have to keep their heads — even in a raucous environment on Friday.

“I know it can get very emotional when you have that sort of atmosphere around you,” Oklahoma captain Grace Lyons said. “… That’s what you dream of when you’re young, all those rivalry games.

“But I think it’s important to stay neutral and know that we can bring passion but also just kind of keep it under control to where good innings come, yeah you celebrate it but you get back down to neutral and then you get ready for the next half inning.”

Saturday and Sunday’s contests will return to Marita Hynes Field in Norman, but the showcase on Friday will provide a postseason environment for the new faces in both dugouts to acclimate to.

“It’s going to be cool with the huge atmosphere at Hall of Fame (for) Game 1,” Lyons said. “That’s going to be super fun, kind of World Series feel. So I’m excited for that and for the newcomers to feel that and experience that now and just prepare that for the rest of the series and the rest of conference and season.”

Oklahoma went 5-1 overall against Texas last year, but the Longhorns did end the Sooners’ 38-game winning streak to start 2022.

Despite demolishing Texas 26-6 in the two Championship Series games last year, OU is anticipating a spirited fight across the entire weekend, starting at 6 p.m. on Friday.

“This is going to be a good measuring stick at this time of the season,” Gasso said. “But there’s no measuring right now. You’ve got to clutch up and step up because the road to the Big 12 championship is coming through Norman right now and through Hall of Fame. We’ve got to be really playing well and at our best.

“One thing about Texas, they always make us better every time we play them. They are aggressive on the base paths. They move quickly. They’re strong. They’re well-coached. There’s a lot to bring to the table.”

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