Oklahoma has a familiar path to defending its National Championship.
Just like last year, the Sooners earned the No. 1-overall seed in the NCAA Softball Tournament.
Patty Gasso’s team has been ranked in the top spot in the country all year long.
The OU head coach joined ESPN's Holly Rowe on the NCAA Softball Selection Show, and said she was pleased with how her team navigated the pressure that stems from being the No. 1-ranked team all year long.
"I’m extremely proud. It’s a hard place to live," Gasso said. "Any team that’s lived up there and tried to stay number one knows what I’m talking about. So a lot of pressure comes along with it. But at the same time, it’s been such a pleasure.
"… Very excited about this next part of our season which is where memories are built."
OU has only stubbed its toe twice this year — once in the series finale at Texas and Saturday in the Big 12 Championship Game at the hands of Oklahoma State — en route to a dominant 49-2 record.
Despite the loss in the Big 12 title game to the Cowgirls on Saturday, Gasso said she was confident in how prepared her team is to respond this weekend.
"It’s not a problem for us at all," she said. "I mean we usually come back better and more prepared as we go forward after a loss. So it doesn’t shake us much at all.
"We know what we’re playing for now, and it’s to win a National Championship like every other team in the tournament. So that’s where our focus is and where our goal is."
As a result of their hard work, Oklahoma once again won’t have to leave the Sooner State to win another national title.
Starting Friday, the Sooners will host Prairie View A&M (20-27), Minnesota (26-24-1) and Texas A&M in a regional at Marita Hynes Field in Norman.
Earlier this season, OU beat Minnesota 9-1 in a five inning run rule at Marita Hynes Field.
Texas A&M also has experience with postseason play in Norman, as the Aggies participated in the Norman regional last year.
Should the Sooners advance out of the Norman Regional, they will meet the winner of the Orlando regional, hosted by the 16-seeded UCF Knights.
Armed with the most explosive offense in softball, Oklahoma’s nation-leading pitching rotation now turns to see if true freshman Jordy Bahl will be available to start the NCAA Tournament.
Bahl was held out of this weekend’s Big 12 Tournament due to soreness, and Gasso said the team isn't going to rush Bahl back before she's ready.
"We’re optimistic," Gasso said. "We’re just going to take it day by day and see how we’re going along. We’re not going to press anything. First and foremost is the health of Jordy and making sure we’re not doing anything to interrupt her career. That’s first and foremost.
"So we’re going to wait and hear from the doctors, see how Jordy is feeling, get her working with the team and we’ll take it from there. But I’m really proud of this pitching staff and we’ll handle whatever comes our way. And our pitching staff knows how to do it."
Oklahoma’s national title defense will officially begin against Prairie View A&M, as the Sooners will host the Panthers at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.
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