NORMAN - Advancing out of the Auburn Super Regional, the defending national champion Oklahoma softball team faces No. 15 Baylor Thursday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2 in the Women's College World Series. In their second game of the double elimination tournament, the Sooners will face either No. 3 Oregon (52-6) or No. 6 Washington (48-12).
A win over Baylor would have OU play on Friday night at 8:30, while a loss would see Oklahoma play its second game of the WCWS Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Fans can listen to each of OU's games on KEBC 1560 in Norman or online via the link above.
Limited standing room only tickets are still available, but fans can also look to use the NCAA Ticket Exchange.
Oklahoma is the No. 10 overall seed in the 2017 NCAA Division I Softball Championship and has earned a national seed each of the last 11 seasons.
Against the NCAA Tournament field this year, the Sooners were an impressive 20-6 (.769) during the regular season. In fact, that's what OU's record was against the field entering last year's tournament, as well.
World Series Experience
Oklahoma is making its 11th overall appearance at the Women's College World Series and its sixth trip in the last seven years. No other team in the country has made as many trips to the WCWS as Oklahoma since the 2011 season.
Oklahoma's three national championships are third most in NCAA history. In addition, OU is fourth in WCWS wins with 22, sixth in WCWS win percentage (min. 3 appearances)at .595 and seventh in appearances.
OU is 6-4 all-time in their opening game at the WCWS, including wins in three of their last four.
The Sooners are 92-41 (.692) all-time under head coach Patty Gasso in Oklahoma City, including regular season and postseason games. OU is 5-0 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium already this year and has won 12 of their last 13 at the venue.
Against the WCWS Field
Seven of the eight WCWS teams have played at least one game against the rest of the field (Texas A&M is the only team that hasn't). With two wins over Baylor and another over UCLA, and losses to BU and Washington, OU ranks tied for second in win percentage among World Series teams.
In addition, Oklahoma ranks second among the WCWS teams in fielding percentage (.979), third in ERA (1.52), fourth in on-base percentage (4.30) and slugging (.480) and fifth in batting average (.319).
Oklahoma has a 55-13 (.809) all-time advantage over Baylor, though the teams have never met before in the postseason. OU has won seven of the past eight in the series, winning by a combined score of 44-15.
The Sooners are 4-3 all-time against fellow Big 12 teams when meeting in the NCAA Tournament. Thursday will be the third time that OU has faced a Big 12 team in the WCWS, going 1-1 previously. Oklahoma lost to Missouri, 4-1, in 2011 and beat Texas, 10-2, in five innings in 2013.
This will be the sixth time in history that Big 12 teams meet in the WCWS. In addition to the games involving OU, Nebraska beat Texas, 2-1, in 1998, while Baylor beat Texas A&M 7-4 in 2007 and also beat OSU and Missouri by scores of 1-0 in extra innings in 2011.
OU head coach Patty Gasso is 47-10 (.825) all-time against the Bears. The Sooners have not lost a regular season series to Baylor since being swept in the 2004 season, going 9-0-4 since then.
OU's 55 wins against Baylor are its fourth most against another program in its history.
Among teams its faced at least 30 times, OU's .809 win percentage over the Lady Bears is its third highest against another team behind Texas Tech (.883, 52-7) and Wichita State (47-7; .870).
OU has two Texans on its roster in freshmen Alissa Dalton (Cypress; Cy-Fair HS) and Nicole Mendes (Houston).
Oklahoma sophomore Kylie Lundberg was high school teammates with Baylor junior Jessie Scroggins at Lakewood HS in Lakewood, Calif.
Last Time They Met
Oklahoma won two of three games from Baylor when the teams met in Norman in late April.
The series opener was scoreless through eight innings before Baylor took the lead in the ninth only to see Nicole Mendes' RBI double send it to the 10th. The Lady Bears took the lead back at 2-1, but Falepolima Aviu hit a two-run, walkoff double to give the Sooners a dramatic 3-2 win.
OU got the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate but Baylor prevailed in game two, 4-3. It snapped OU's 17-game win streak, its string of 25 straight wins in Big 12 play and its streak of 33 wins in a row at home.
The Sooners captured the series with a 6-0 win in game three. Nicole Pendley hit a first-inning grand slam, while Paige Parker threw a five-hit shutout with nine strikeouts to lead OU to the win.
Oklahoma is making its 24th postseason appearance which is tied for 11th most in NCAA history. In addition, OU has the third most wins in postseason history (105) and owns the third-best win percentage all-time (min. 5 postseason appearances) at .700.
OU has reached the postseason in each of the past 24 seasons. Only Arizona is currently on a longer streak.
|Alabama, Louisiana, Notre Dame, UCLA||19|
Parker Sets Career Best Scoreless Streak
Paige Parker did not allow a run over a 38.1 IP stretch from April 15 to May 19. It was the longest streak of her career and her ninth that's covered at least 20.0 innings. Parker's streak was the best by an OU pitcher since Keilani Ricketts had a 46.0 IP stretch from Feb. 25 - March 16, 2011.
Pitching Staff Nearing 2013 Levels
The Oklahoma pitching staff is having its best season statistically since the 2013 national championship team that was led by Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne. The team's ERA (1.52), strikeout rate (7.65 per 7 IP) and opponent average (.175) are all at their best levels since 2013 at this stage of the season, while the walk rate of 1.57 walks per 7 innings pitched is actually better than 2013 (1.69).
The 2017 staff has been anchored by two-time All-American Paige Parker, but junior transfer Paige Lowary and freshman Mariah Lopez have emerged to form a powerful trio. Entering the postseason, OU and Oregon were the only teams in the country to have three pitchers who have thrown at least 91.0 IP and also have ERAs of 1.78 or better.
Parker has seen her inning total drop from 216.1 to 184.2 at this same point a year ago. The decrease in workload appears to be doing wonders for her as her ERA (1.29), strikeout rate (9.21) and walk rate (1.52) are all better than any previous season in her career.
Lowary's numbers have improved significantly in Norman compared to her first two seasons at Missouri. Her ERA has improved from 3.32 to 1.61 while her walk rate has dropped from 3.51 per 7 IP to 1.71 and her opponent average has gone from .244 to .163.
Lowary has excelled in her role as a relief pitcher. In 56.0 innings in relief, she's allowed just 6 earned runs for a 0.75 ERA with a strikeout rate of 5.88/7 IP, a walk rate of 1.38/7 IP, an opponents' average of .106 and eight saves. Conversely, her ERA in 74.2 IP as a starter is 2.25 with a K rate of 6.00, walk rate of 1.97 and average against of .203. Remove a relief performance vs. Ole Miss on Feb. 17 where she gave up 3 runs in 2.1 IP, her ERA would be 0.39 with 3 ER allowed in 53.2 IP.
Lopez has a 2.06 ERA with 107 strikeouts to 18 walks in 98.2 IP. As of 5/28, her 1.28 walks/7 IP was 3rd in the country among freshmen (min. 90.0 IP), while her 5.04 hits/7 IP ranked 5th, strikeout rate of 7.6/7 IP was 8th and ERA was 9th.
Healthy Knighten a Force at the Plate
Shay Knighten battled a knee injury throughout the fall and it impacted her as the season started. She was hitting just .232 with 1 home run through the first 20 games, but she's been on a tear since.
|First 20 Games||Stat||Last 45 Games|
Mendes on a Tear Since Becoming a Starter
Freshman Nicole Mendes entered the starting lineup on March 10 in the second game of a DH vs. Omaha and hasn't left. Over the last 44 games (where she has started in RF, DP, LF and P), she leads the team in average (.448), runs (48), hits (69), triples (3), total bases (97) and stolen bases (21), is second in OBP (.488) and is third in slugging (.630).
Mendes has hit safely in 39 of the 44 games, including eight games with three hits, highlighted by a four-hit effort at Loyola Marymount where she had two doubles and a triple.
Mendes recently saw the end of her career-best hit streak at 21 games and on-base streak at 35 games, both of which were the longest such streaks by a Sooner this year. Below are some of her stats during both the hit streak and on-base streak.
|Hit Streak||Stat||On-Base Streak|
Mendes' 21-game hit streak was two off the school record of 23 set by Kristin Vesely from Feb. 18 to March 13, 2005. Her on-base streak was the longest since Lauren Chamberlain reached in the final 25 games of the 2014 season and the first 13 of 2015 for a 38-game streak.
OU Eclipses 100 Stolen Bases
Oklahoma is 108-133 on stolen base attempts entering the WCWS. The steal total is third most in team history and four off the school record of 112 set in 2000.
Eleven different players have at least one stolen base this year and eight have at least seven steals. Nicole Mendes leads the team with 21 this year, while Caleigh Clifton is second with 19 and Sydney Romero has 15 this year after having just 6 in 2016.
As a team, OU has 17 games this year with at least three stolen bases and 10 games with at least four, including a season-high six at Texas Tech (4/30).
Through 5/28, Paige Parker is 7th among active pitchers in career ERA (1.54), eighth in wins (89), ninth in shutouts (29), 13th in total strikeouts (736), 15th in strikeouts/7 IP (7.88), 17th in complete games (70), 28th in innings pitched (654.0), 37th in starts (94) and 43rd in appearances (128) ... Paige Lowary is 5th among active pitchers in saves (14), 32nd in wins (57) and 42nd in strikeouts/7IP (6.07) ... Caleigh Clifton is 29th among active players with 39 career HBP ... Nicole Mendes is 5th among active players in career batting average at .438 (min. 100 AB)
Parker leads the team in ERA during non-conference games (1.44), while Lowary has a team-best 1.63 ERA at neutral sites ... Mendes leads the team in batting average in non-conference games (.434) and neutral site games (.405)
Every pitcher on the OU staff has an ERA of 2.06 or better, and the staff ERA was 1.92 at neutral sites and 1.59 during non-conference games ... after hitting 15 home runs in their first 32 games (0.47/game), the Sooners have hit 39 in their last 30 contests (1.3/game) ... conversely, OU pitchers have given up six home runs in the last 28 games (0.21/game)after giving up 25 in the first 34 contests (0.74/game)
OU Carries Record Road Winning Streak into 2018
Dating to April 8 of 2016, OU has won a school record 28 straight road games, including all 18 road contests this year which gives OU its first undefeated road record in history.
|Wins||Start Date||End Date|
|28||April 8, 2016||N/A|
|16||March 18, 2002||March 20, 2003|
During the streak, Oklahoma has six top-25 wins, 10 shutouts and four run-rule wins. Eighteen victories have been against Big 12 teams, while 10 have been non-conference matchups. Here's a stat breakdown during the streak.
OU has the longest active road win streak in the country at 28 games, ahead of Saint Francis (PA) at 17 and Washington at 10. Oklahoma is the only team in the country to be undefeated in true road games this year.
Oklahoma has also won a program-record 20 straight road games within conference play, dating to April 25, 2015. That bests the old mark of 17 between April 2001 and March 2003.