The 2021 Oklahoma softball team lost four games en route to winning the national championship. The Sooners repeated in 2022 with just three losses. OU completed the three-peat with a 3-1 win over Florida State on Thursday night, capping off the most dominant season in the history of the sport and capturing the program’s seventh national title.
𝐃𝐀𝐖𝐆PILE 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/hkhNXGEIf1
— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) June 9, 2023
Oklahoma went 61-1 on the year, ending the season with 53 consecutive wins. The winning streak is an NCAA record, and the one loss is the fewest by a national champion. UCLA is the only other softball program to three-peat, winning national titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
“I’m just proud of how we’ve stuck together through pressure, adversity, and just have ultimately been one strong, cohesive unit that has — at the end of the day — taken that pressure and given the glory to the Lord and been able to still play free and play together and find joy in things outside of the playing field,” ace Jordy Bahl said in the postgame press conference.
— NCAA Softball (@NCAASoftball) June 9, 2023
— NCAA Softball (@NCAASoftball) June 9, 2023
Bahl — who threw a complete-game shutout Wednesday in Game 1 of the championship series — then came in to get the last nine outs and scored an insurance run.
Throughout all the on-field success — six national titles since 2013 — one of the defining characteristics of the Oklahoma program is the culture of faith that has been established by head coach Patty Gasso. Around 2010, Gasso started to realize she was making winning too much of a priority 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.”
This season, the players have encouraged each other to keep their eyes on Christ by using the phrase “eyes up.” In a press conference before the championship series, third baseman Alyssa Brito explained the impact the phrase has had on her and her teammates.
“You can’t find fulfillment in an outcome, whether it’s good or bad,” Brito said. “And I think that’s why we’re so steady in what we do and our love for each other and our love for the game because we know this game is giving us the opportunity to glorify God. I just think once we figured that out and that was our purpose and everyone was all in with that, it’s really changed so much for us.”
Brito’s answer was in response to a question about how the Sooners dealt with the pressure of the winning streak and found joy in the midst of a long season. Brito, Coleman and Lyons all responded by saying contentment could only be found in the Lord.
Coleman talked about how their faith helped the players avoid getting caught up in the expectations placed on them by other people and becoming defined by what happened on the diamond.
“I think that’s what makes our team so strong is that we’re not afraid to lose because it’s not the end of the world if we do lose,” she said. “Yes, obviously, we worked our butts off to be here and we want to win. But it’s not the end of the world because our life is in Christ and that’s all that matters.”
Thursday’s game was the final one in an Oklahoma uniform for Lyons, a fifth-year senior. She is regarded as the spiritual leader of the team and has helped baptize multiple teammates, including Coleman and Brito.
Lyons wrote a letter to softball reflecting on her college career and read it into a camera as part of a series of videos posted to the NCAA softball Twitter account. Her video focused on how finding Jesus changed the way she viewed the sport.
“My prayer when I started college was that I could be a vessel that the Lord uses in His Kingdom to bring others to know Him,” Lyons said in the video. “As I leave college softball, I pray that others could know how loved they are by the Creator of the world and that Jesus can use you in mighty ways. You just need to be willing and obedient.”
“I will never take these opportunities for granted. But it is so much greater than what goes on on that dirt.”@grace_lyons5 reflects on the important lessons she has learned over her collegiate career with @OU_Softball.#WCWS pic.twitter.com/iq158afSro
— NCAA Softball (@NCAASoftball) June 8, 2023
Though Lyons and a few other key players will not be with the team in 2024, numerous leaders — on the field and spiritually, like Brito, Coleman and Bahl — will return. As Oklahoma aims to keep the winning streak going, it will be favored to win a fourth straight national title.
– Softball star Jayda Coleman finding contentment in Christ as OU attempts 3-peat
– OU softball earns Division-I record 48th straight win: ‘All the glory to God’
– Rooted in Christ, Patty Gasso leads OU softball to NCAA Tourney’s No. 1 seed
– OU softball’s Jayda Coleman gets baptized as team pursues 3rd national 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: OU softball coach Patty Gasso on God’s guidance in her coaching