The Oklahoma softball team advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the 11th time in 12 seasons on Saturday, and set an NCAA Division-I record with its 48th straight win in the process — but it didn’t come easy.
Trying to avoid elimination and force a winner-advances Game 3 in the Norman Super Regional, Clemson scored seven runs between the fourth and fifth innings to take a 7-4 lead. The Tigers were one strike away from closing out the game when OU catcher Kinzie Hansen crushed a three-run home run to tie.
— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) May 27, 2023
Tiare Jennings then hit her second home run of the game to give the Sooners the lead in the ninth inning, and they went on to win.
𝐓𝐖𝐈𝐂𝐄 𝐀𝐒 𝐍𝐈𝐂𝐄.@_tiarejennings second HR of the game for the lead!
T9 | OU 8, Clemson 7 | 📺 ESPN pic.twitter.com/5hNXRe9N9L
— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) May 27, 2023
The dramatic victory moved Oklahoma to 56-1 on the season, and moved it ahead of the 1996-97 Arizona team that previously held the longest winning streak in D-I softball at 47 games. The win also marked the final game at Marita Hynes Field with the program’s new stadium set to open next season, and came on head coach Patty Gasso’s birthday.
“What better way to walk away than with something like this, just gritty, come-from-behind, hard-fought,” Gasso told ESPN. “I just give all the credit to Clemson for just giving us this battle, and just all the glory to God for blessing this team and this staff tremendously.”
— espnW (@espnW) May 27, 2023
While Gasso has built one of the most dominant programs in all of college sports during her 29 years in Norman, she’s done so on a foundation of faith.
In her early years leading OU, she wasn’t all that confident talking about Jesus and struggled at times to balance her responsibilities as a coach and spiritual leader. But the arrival of team chaplain Sarah Roberts took some of the pressure off Gasso. Around 2010, the coach started to realize she was placing winning above everything else and was reminded by God what her ultimate purpose is.
“The Lord kind of woke me up and was like, ‘You’re doing this wrong,” she told Sports Spectrum before this season. “You’re not here to win games. You’re here to open the door — here to win souls. You open the door and let them in. I’ll take over from there.’ And then everything changed.”
Oklahoma has won five national championships since 2013, including the last two. Gasso credits her players for boldly living out their faith and using the attention they get because of the team’s success to glorify God.
“Those championships are ordained by Him as well, because I’ve got some very brave athletes who stand on the biggest platform and are not afraid to share their faith,” she told Sports Spectrum.
Four of those players — pitcher Jordy Bahl, outfielder Rylie Boone, infielder Alyssa Brito and infielder Grace Lyons — discussed the team culture in the Spring 2023 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine. They said many players go to church together and attend optional chapel services or team Bible studies, and sometimes women choose to get baptized by and with their teammates.
Brito, who hit a home run in Saturday’s win, is in her second season with OU after transferring from Oregon, and was baptized by Boone and Lyons last year.
View this post on Instagram
The spiritual growth Brito’s experienced in her time at Oklahoma has made her more comfortable with the person she is on and off the field.
“I just feel like getting the opportunity to be different and bring attention to the Kingdom and have conversations about Christ, I think that’s definitely made me feel more confident in my faith,” she told Sports Spectrum.
In her fifth and final season as a Sooner, Lyons has focused on supporting the spiritual growth of the team’s younger players, just like veterans did for her when she was new to the program.
“We’ve got a lot of great characters,” Lyons told Sports Spectrum. “There’s so many people who are seeking after the Lord.”
If Oklahoma completes the three-peat, it would be the first program to do so since UCLA won the national championship in 1988, 1989 and 1990. The World Series (which comprises the final eight teams of the NCAA Tournament) begins Thursday in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
– Rooted in Christ, Patty Gasso leads Oklahoma softball to Tourney’s No. 1 seed
– Oklahoma softball’s Jayda Coleman gets baptized as team pursues 3rd title
– SS PODCAST: Oklahoma SS Grace Lyons, OF Rylie Boone on faith & success
– SS PODCAST: Oklahoma pitcher Jordy Bahl, coach JT Gasso on faith, success
– Quincee Lilio baptized amid Oklahoma softball’s culture of winning & faith
– SS PODCAST: Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso on God’s guidance in her life