Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Oklahoma softball's 40-game winning streak built on foundation of faith

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Sooners softball team had a chance to break a program record by sweeping a doubleheader against Georgia to make it 42 wins in a row dating back to last season.

It was not to be though, as the Sooners’ 40-game winning streak was snapped when they dropped the first game, 7-6, in extra innings. It marked their first loss since Feb. 29, 2020. Yet, they bounced back with a 12-3 victory by run rule in the second game.

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Over the weekend, OU swept a top-10 Texas team, winning all three games by run rule and outscoring the Longhorns 30-3. That gave the Sooners the third longest winning streak in NCAA history, brought them within one of the school record they set in 2019, and within seven of the all-time mark of 47 set by Arizona in 1997.

But after the Georgia loss, Oklahoma is now 34-1 this season with 17 shutouts and 26 victories by run rule. The last time the Sooners lost a series to a Big 12 opponent was 2011.

Overseeing Oklahoma’s dominance is head coach Patty Gasso, who took over the program in 1995 and is one of the most successful coaches in college softball history. The four-time national champion was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.

Though Gasso’s teams have been wildly successful, building a national powerhouse was never her main goal. Her purpose, she believes, is something much greater.

“Winning is not what I’m on earth to do, not winning softball games,” Gasso said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2019. “The Lord has put it in my heart to win souls and do it in a way that is not forceful, but more trying to be the light for others through the way I live.”

The 12-time Big 12 Coach of the Year started a Bible study for her players early in her time at Oklahoma. Only a couple players attended at the beginning. Over time, it grew to the point where it is now players, not Gasso, who lead it.

She works to strike a balance between sharing her faith with her players and not forcing it onto them. Gasso’s seen the impact the believers on her team have had on their teammates over the years.

“When they see the changes that are made within their team and their teammates, they’re just curious to know more,” she said. “But it’s never forced. It’s never, ‘Hey, listen to this. I’ve got to preach to you.'”

Multiple players have gotten baptized, including senior pitcher Shannon Saile. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic was cutting the 2020 season short, Saile dedicated her life to God.

Her journey to baptism really began when she decided to transfer after two seasons at Florida International.

β€œWhen I was deciding that I wanted to enter the transfer portal about a year and half ago, I was in a really dark place full of anxieties and I looked to Jesus for the answers,” Saile told Sports Spectrum. β€œHe led me to Oklahoma.”

As the Sooners keep chasing history, their coach’s motivation for coming to work every day has not changed.

“For me, success is that I’ve made some kind of difference in a player’s life, both spiritually and maybe emotionally or through helping build their character, helping build them into confident, strong women,” Gasso said on the podcast.

Next up for the Sooners is a three-game series with Texas Tech starting Friday night.

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