NORMAN – Seventeen opponents that reached the 2016 NCAA Softball Tournament, including an early rematch against national runner-up Auburn, and the return of the Big 12 Softball Championship highlight the defending national champion University of Oklahoma softball team’s 2017 schedule.
It’ll be the 23rd season for the Sooners under the direction of head coach Patty Gasso. OU has reached the postseason in each of her previous 22 seasons, including seven straight trips to the Super Regionals, 10 appearances overall in the Women’s College World Series and three national titles.
The season starts for the Sooners Feb. 9-11 at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Playing outside the United States for the first time in program history, OU faces a loaded field with all four opponents reaching the postseason a year ago. The season begins against BYU, followed by a rematch against an Auburn team that OU beat in the Women’s College World Series Championship Series in 2016. The tournament then closes out with games against Nebraska and Washington, the latter of whom reached the Super Regionals a year ago.
From there, Oklahoma takes part in the Houston Hilton Plaza Classic, Feb. 17-18. In addition to two games against the host-Cougars, the Sooners are scheduled to face Incarnate Word and Ole Miss, who lost two games to OU during the 2016 Regionals.
OU then makes its annual trip to the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., Feb. 23-25, where it will face a daunting field for the second time in the first three weeks of the year. After opening against Louisville, the Sooners match up against perennial powers Tennessee, Missouri and WCWS-participant UCLA before closing out against San Diego State.
After a road contest against another opponent from the 2016 Norman Regional, Wichita State, on March 1, the Sooners open their home schedule on March 3 with the Courtyard Marriott Tournament. Northwestern State, Evansville and Western Kentucky are all scheduled to visit Norman as part of the tournament schedule.
Intrastate foe Tulsa visits Norman March 8 to complete OU’s rematches against teams it hosted during last year’s Regionals, before Omaha and Illinois-Chicago come to town March 10-12 for another home tournament.
Spring break hits the week of March 13-19 and Oklahoma will be spending it in California with seven games on the docket. On March 14, OU will take part in a tournament on Long Beach State’s campus against the 49ers and Arizona. Both teams made the postseason a year ago with the Wildcats advancing to the Super Regionals.
From there, OU travels to Los Angeles for a tournament hosted by Loyola Marymount, March 16-18. The Sooners open against postseason participant CSU Bakersfield before facing the host-Lions, Cal Poly and DePaul.
The Sooners then return home for their final tournament of the season, the College Preview Tournament, March 24-26. OU faces Mississippi State at home before venturing up the road to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City to meet Louisiana Tech and UAB. The weekend concludes with a second matchup against UAB at Marita Hynes Field.
Aside from a road game at North Texas on March 28 and a home game with Arkansas on April 5, the Sooners then spend the rest of the season after the Preview Tournament in conference play.
Oklahoma begins its quest for an unprecedented sixth straight Big 12 title as it opens league play with a three-game series in Norman against Iowa State on March 31.
The conference schedule also sees OU hosting Baylor (April 21-23) and a Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma State (May 5). OU will be on the road within the conference at Texas (April 7-9), Kansas (April 13-15) and Texas Tech (April 28-30). The other two Bedlam contests are set to take place in Stillwater on May 3 and 6.
For the first time since 2010, the Big 12 Softball Championship will be held May 12-13 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The championship will include pool play for the top six teams. Of the current league membership, OU and Texas have won the postseason title four times each, while Kansas won the championship in 2006.
OU won the very first Big 12 Softball Championship in 1996 and took home titles in 2001, 2007 and 2010, along with runner-up finishes in 1998, 2003, 2006 and 2009. All-time, Oklahoma holds a 39-18 record in the Big 12 Championship.
The 2016 NCAA Regionals are scheduled for May 19-21 at campus sites, while the Super Regionals are also scheduled to take place at campus sites from May 25-28. The 2017 Women’s College World Series will be held in Oklahoma City from June 1-7.