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OU Softball: Oklahoma Opens 2023 WCWS on Thursday Against Stanford

The top-ranked Sooners acknowledge the 9-seeded Cardinal are a completely different team than when the two sides met in February.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s quest for a third straight national title resumes on Thursday.

The top-ranked Sooners are in the midst of the best run in the history of Division I softball, reeling off 48-straight games to enter the 2023 Women’s College World Series an astounding 56-1.

Patty Gasso’s OU juggernaut leads the country in batting average (.372), ERA (1.00) and fielding percentage (.988), and are poised to become the first team in history to end the year at the top of all three categories.

Oklahoma’s first WCWS opponent, 9-seeded Stanford (45-13), is unbeaten so far in the NCAA Tournament, but this isn’t the first meeting between the two this year.

How to Watch Oklahoma vs. Stanford

  • Thursday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN

The Sooners run-ruled the Cardinal 10-1 on Feb. 10 at the Mark Campbell Invitational in the first week of the year, with Haley Lee delivered the decisive home run in the sixth inning to cut the game short.

Constant fixtures at the WCWS, OU’s current streak of making the final eight stretches the past seven tournaments, Oklahoma are massive favorites to start out on the right foot at Hall of Fame Stadium.

But in the midst of this dominant run, the Sooners have stumbled out of the gates before.

In 2021, James Madison and star pitcher Odicci Alexander upended the Crimson and Cream on opening day.

Stanford has its own star pitcher to try and contain OU’s explosive offense.

Freshman NiJaree Canady lead the nation with a .48 ERA, and crucially she didn’t face the Oklahoma lineup in this season’s prior meeting.

The Sooners won’t have firsthand experience tracking Canady’s stuff, though Gasso acknowledge the Topeka, KS, product was on her radar during her recruitment process.

“Yes, I did (cross paths),” Gasso said, “and I will just stop right there. She's not here.

“She's a great, great athlete, great hitter, really good pitcher. She has really grown maybe more from a thrower to a pitcher, probably around her junior year and going into her senior year, she started to really dominate some teams. Stanford's done a great job with her.”

The Cardinal will have another option in the circle in Alana Vawter.

Vawter, who posted an ERA of 1.83 this year, wasn’t thrown against OU in February either, and she was named an NFCA Second Team All-American on Wednesday.

Stanford will need the pitching staff to star on Thursday as the offense struggles to generate much run support.

The Cardinal are hitting .285 as a team, launching just 24 home runs compared to OU’s 112 long balls.

Still despite already having a win over Stanford this year, Gasso isn’t putting too much stock into the early-season victory.

“We're two completely different teams,” Gasso said. “I know that they're so much better. NiJaree is now in their rotation. Every team starts, you have no idea — if we could remember back to our first weekend, we were looking around like what's going on? We weren't quite ready to play, and I think a lot of teams feel that way.

“Whether we won or lost, I don't take much from it because we're all so, so different, and they look different on video and the games we've seen lately.”

The Sooners look a bit different as well.

OU’s NFCA First Team All-American catcher Kinzie Hansen wasn’t with the team during the first weekend of the year, and OU has settled into its 2023 identity.

Hansen’s return, combined with monster seasons from second baseman Tiare Jennings, center fielder Jayda Coleman, third baseman Alyssa Brito, Lee and others have once again made Oklahoma’s lineup dangerous from top to bottom.

The Sooners are hitting .411 as a team in the NCAA Tournament alone, outscoring opponents 55-12 and blasting 18 home runs.

Stanford will get its second shot at Oklahoma at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday at Hall of Fame Stadium, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.