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Rooted in Christ, Patty Gasso leads Oklahoma softball to NCAA Tourney's No. 1 seed

The accolades just keep piling up for the Oklahoma softball program and head coach Patty Gasso.

On Saturday, Gasso’s Sooners (51-1) took down the rival Texas Longhorns, 6-1, to capture the Big 12 Conference Tournament title and extend their winning streak to a school-record 43 straight wins. They’re just four victories away from matching the all-time record for consecutive wins in NCAA Division I softball history (47, set by Arizona in 1996-97).

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Then on Sunday, they were unsurprisingly given the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive time. The Sooners will host a regional and, if they advance, a super regional as well.

The two-time defending Women’s College World Series champs begin their path to a three-peat on Friday at 5 p.m. ET against Hofstra. Missouri and Cal are the other teams in the Norman Regional. If Oklahoma sweeps through the weekend by winning three more in a row, it will take on the winner of the Clemson Regional and be one victory away from matching the NCAA-record winning streak.

“We’re not afraid to lose games,” Gasso told ESPN after earning the No. 1 overall seed. “We like to go in and just give it all we have, and if it’s not good enough, we know what we need to do to be better.”

Oklahoma’s winning streak began way back in February after a 4-3 loss to Baylor on Feb. 19. The team was able to avenge its loss in a three-game sweep in April, outscoring the Bears 13-0 across the three games.

Gasso and her players insist, however, that they aren’t burdened by the winning streak or by the pursuit of a third consecutive national championship. They can play loose, knowing God in His sovereignty has already ordained the outcome for His ultimate glory.

“They understand that this is more than a game. And that’s why they play it so freely. That’s how I feel,” Gasso told Sports Spectrum before the season. “This team, a couple of them made this comment that just stuck with me. And they share with each other like, ‘The end is already written.’ The end has already been written, so what are we afraid of? Why should we play scared?

“We already know that the result and the ending โ€” the Lord already knows. It’s already planned. So just use our gifts and let’s go. Let’s go. Don’t be afraid of the outcome. And it is so freeing when you watch them play. They’re afraid of nothing. They’re certainly not afraid to lose, and that’s the beauty of this group.”

The Oklahoma softball program (featured in the Spring 2023 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine) may be known for its incredibly strong culture of faith just as much as its incredible on-field success. Players routinely decide to get baptized, and some, like senior Grace Lyons, have become bold Christian leaders who have helped shepherd others toward faith in Christ.

It’s a culture that Gasso doesn’t shy away from; indeed, it all starts with her own relationship with God.

Yet that wasn’t always the case. In Gasso’s early years with the Sooners, she admits she was a little shy about speaking out about Jesus. In the mid-2000s, when a couple of players complained that they believed she was favoring the Christians on the team, Gasso nearly left Norman.

“I needed someone to pick me off the ground,” Gasso told Sports Spectrum, “because I was ready to walk away. ‘If I can’t [be open about faith], I can’t be here.'”

That person was Sarah Roberts, who joined Oklahoma softball as team chaplain and took the pressure off of Gasso to lead in the same way. Roberts’ entrance was a turning point of sorts for Gasso, who had noticed in herself a win-at-all-costs attitude beginning to creep in.

“Probably around 2010, the Lord kind of woke me up and was like, ‘You’re doing this wrong. You’re not here to win games. You’re here to open the door โ€” here to win souls. You open the door and let them in. I’ll take over from there,'” Gasso remembered. “And then everything changed.”

Oklahoma began to win more games on the softball diamond and the culture of faith began to become more entrenched. As the national titles began to stack up (six and counting) so did the professions of faith and baptisms from the team.

If Gasso could describe her program in one word? Fulfillment.

“Happiness is result-oriented,” Gasso said. “… This is more a program of fulfillment. And that is, who are we becoming? The direction that we’re going. How do we grow as women? How do we grow in our faith, and how do we find that path that we’re supposed to take?”

Needless to say, a lot is at stake for Oklahoma softball in the coming month. A winning streak, a championship streak, putting college softball on the national sports radar. But as the players say, it’s already been written. So Gasso sees something else, too: another opportunity to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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