Summer 2024

Oklahoma softball wins record 4th straight national title: 'God was really present this season'

The Oklahoma softball team lost a total of eight games while winning back-to-back-to-back national championships in dominant fashion the past three seasons. This season was, relatively speaking, more of a struggle.

Oklahoma lost seven times and dropped regular-season series against its two biggest rivals, Oklahoma State and Texas. The Sooners lost a game in the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2021, but then survived in extra innings against Florida in the WCWS semifinals. That set up another meeting with the No. 1-seeded Longhorns in the championship series.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

Like they have so many times before, the Sooners found a way to come out on top. They beat Texas 8-3 on Wednesday and 8-4 on Thursday to win the best-of-three series and become the first program to ever four-peat. UCLA (1988-1990) is the only other school to win three softball national titles in a row.

“Everybody has something to say about us all the time and people counted us out,” catcher Kinzie Hansen said in the postgame press conference. “It was just a grind. All in. Mentally. Physically. And we fought the whole year, and it was so worth it in this moment.”

Texas jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in Game 2, but Kasidi Pickering’s second home run in as many days put Oklahoma up 2-1.

After Texas reclaimed the lead, Cydney Sanders drove in three runs with a bases-clearing double in the fourth inning that gave the Sooners a 5-3 advantage.

The Longhorns scored a run in the sixth, and Oklahoma responded with three of its own in the bottom of the inning. Kelly Maxwell, who threw 119 pitches in Game 1 and was the fifth pitcher used by the Sooners, recorded the final four outs.

The numbers are staggering. Over the past four years, Oklahoma has played 250 games and has been victorious in 235 of them. Per the ESPN broadcast, the group of players who spent their entire four-year career at OU will leave having never been shutout. Texas was 43-0 when scoring the first run in a game this season, too.

At the center of head coach Patty Gasso’s program is a strong culture of faith. After winning her eighth national championship, Gasso spoke about the important role it plays in her team’s success.

“You hear their faith,” she said in the postgame press conference. “[It] has a lot to do with this, so they’re never afraid. They’re not afraid to lose. This is bigger than a game for them. It’s about life. It’s about trust. It’s about all kinds of things they’ve changed each other’s lives with.”

Many of Oklahoma’s players openly talk about their faith and use their platform to bring glory to God. It is also common for players to get baptized, as pitcher Kierston Deal β€” who got the win Thursday night β€” did earlier this season.

“This one I felt His hand over this program more than I ever have,” outfielder Rylie Boone said. “There was a lot of souls saved this year, and probably some that we don’t even know about. … I feel like God was really present this season.”

One of the defining moments of the team’s season β€” Jayda’s Coleman’s walk-off home run in extra innings against Florida β€” illustrates just how important faith is to the Sooners. Coleman was frustrated with how she was playing, so third baseman Alyssa Brito provided encouragement by praying over her before the at-bat.

“Even though I hit a home run, Jesus still loves me,” Coleman said in the postgame press conference. “If I would have struck out, Jesus still loves me. I think that just really put me into my foundation. … Going around the bases, I just lost it and started crying because I just knew immediately, like, Brito, just the presence that I felt with God. It was incredible.”

Brito helped organize a faith and worship night on Oklahoma’s campus in April and is one of the team’s spiritual leaders. She came on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in February and talked about the growth she’s experienced in her three years with the Sooners.

β€œNever in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought God would put me on a platform like this where people want to hear what I have to say through His work within me,” she said on the podcast. β€œI just never thought I could communicate that way. I never thought I could have the confidence to go on a stage and talk in front of people.”

While the Sooners will have to replace many key contributors including Brito, Coleman, Hansen, Maxwell and shortstop Tiare Jennings, Sanders and Pickering are among the players eligible to return next season. The senior class leaves a remarkable legacy on the field, and the bond they formed because of their shared faith will remain as they enter the next chapter of their lives.

“They’ve cemented this program in history,” Gasso said of the departing seniors. “They’ve cemented themselves in history. History can change, but these guys will never, ever be forgotten.”

>> Do you know Christ personally? Learn how you can commit your life to Him. <<

– Alyssa Brito leads defending-champ Oklahoma back to WCWS, feels ‘so filled’ by Jesus
– Oklahoma winning streak ends, team celebrates baptism of pitcher Kierston Deal
– SS PODCAST: OU softball star Alyssa Brito on freedom in Christ, staying grounded
– OU softball completes historic 3-peat: ‘This game gives us the opportunity to glorify God
– OU softball star Jayda Coleman finds contentment in Christ as Sooners seek 3-peat