Big 12 Championship Begins Friday in OKC
NORMAN — No. 3/3 Oklahoma (47-3, 18-0 Big 12) begins postseason play this weekend at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Softball Championship, held at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
The tournament will begin with pool play with six teams divided into two groups. Top-seeded Oklahoma is in Pool A with No. 4 Texas and No. 6 Iowa State, while No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Baylor and No. 5 Texas Tech are in Pool B. All pool play will occur on Friday, while Saturday will see the third-place teams in each pool face one another followed by the second-place teams and the first-place teams.
The Sooners are aiming to sweep the 2018 Big 12 titles after claiming the regular-season crown. OU also swept the titles in 2017.
Both of Friday’s games will be aired on Fox College Sports, and Saturday’s contest will either be on FCS or FS2.
Historic Regular Season
Oklahoma’s 18-0 finish in Big 12 play was its best conference performance in program history, with the previous best being 17-1 records in 2000, 2016 and 2017.
OU joins the 1998 Nebraska team as the only squads to be undefeated in conference games in a season.
The Sooners finished regular season 47-3 overall, good for the best 50-game record in school annals. Its 0.94 regular season winning percentage is the best in program history.
Overall, the Sooners outscored their opponents 344-58 in the regular season. They claimed 24 shutout wins and 18 run-rules.
Sooners Clean Up End-of-Year Awards
OU earned four of the five individual awards from the league on Wednesday and placed all eight nominees on the all-conference teams.
Paige Parker garnered the fourth Big 12 Pitcher of the Year award of her career, joining Texas’ Cat Osterman as the only pitchers in conference history to claim the title four times. Parker is the third Sooner to earn the award.
Kelsey Arnold was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in her career, also earning the honor in 2016. The Sooners’ shortstop is the fourth player in conference history to win the title twice, joining OU’s Heather Scaglione (2004-05), Texas’ Megan Willis (2006-07) and Texas A&M’s Natalie Villarreal (2009, 2011).
Jocelyn Alo became the seventh Sooner to be named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and fourth in a row, joining current teammates Parker (2015), Shay Knighten (2016) and Nicole Mendes (2017).
Patty Gasso was chosen as the Big 12 Coach of the Year for the 11th time in her career. She has won the award in each of the last seven seasons, while no other coach in the history of the league has even won the honor more than three times.
Alo and Parker were joined by Knighten, senior Paige Lowary and junior Sydney Romero on the All-Big 12 First Team. Arnold was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team along with classmate Nicole Pendley and junior Caleigh Clifton. Alo and infielder Eliyah Flores were placed on the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.
Big 12 Dominance
The Sooners finished the Big 12 regular season leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, walks, stolen bases, ERA, opponent batting average, strikeouts per seven inning and fielding percentage in conference games.
OU has finished first in the Big 12 over the past seven seasons with a combined record of 116-13. Prior to OU’s current run of seven straight regular season titles, no team had ever won more than two consecutive titles.
Overall, the Sooners have 16 Big 12 titles with 11 regular season crowns and five Big 12 tournament championships, all under current OU head coach Patty Gasso. OU claimed the 2017 Big 12 tournament, which was held for the first time since 2010.
Good with the Bat, Good with the Glove
The Sooners are proving dominant on both sides of the game this season. Offensively, Oklahoma leads the nation in on-base percentage (.433) and slugging percentage (.543) while ranking second in scoring (6.88) behind only South Dakota State (6.91).
Defensively, the Sooners are No. 1 in fielding percentage (.991) as they have only committed 12 errors all season. Additionally, OU’s pitching staff has combined for a nation-best ERA of 1.09.
OU’s success has merited the second-best win-loss percentage in the country, .940 (47-3). Only No. 1/1 UCLA holds a better percentage (.941; 48-3).
Last Time Out
The Sooners secured an undefeated conference season with a three-game sweep of Oklahoma State on May 2 and 4-5. OU outscored OSU 18-2 in the Bedlam series, slashing (AVG/OBP/SLG) .346/.452/.590 while holding the Cowgirls at .156/.182/.172.
Oklahoma needed to win one game of the series to clinch its seventh straight Big 12 regular season title, doing so on Wednesday with an 8-0 run-rule victory over OSU in five innings in Norman. Paige Parker recorded her first no-hitter of the season – after the first batter of the game drew a walk, Parker sat down the next 15 foes in order. Three Sooners homered in the contest in Nicole Pendley, Eliyah Flores and Shay Knighten, lifting Oklahoma to its 18th run-rule win of the season.
Game two took place in Stillwater. Paige Lowary tossed a season-high 4.2 innings in relief allowing no runs or walks and four hits while fanning five batters, her highest strikeout total of the year. Although the Cowgirls struck first with a run in the first inning, OU took the lead with three runs in the top of the second. OSU scored again in the third, but the Sooners held off the Cowgirls’ comeback effort to claim a 3-2 victory.
The Sooners clinched the sweep with a 7-0 win on senior night in Norman as Parker and Lowary combined on the shutout. Offensively, the Sooners tallied double-digit hits for the 15th time in 2018, led by two-hit performances from Sydney Romero, Caleigh Clifton, Jocelyn Alo, Knighten and Kelsey Arnold. Romero led the team with three RBIs while Knighten, Alo and Hannah Sparks all drove in one run.
The Sooners have now won their last 20 meetings with the Cowgirls, a streak dating back to 2012. Additionally, OU has won 25 consecutive regular season games in conference play, which matches a program record, and 29 straight home games, which ranks fourth in school history.
The Sooners will learn their NCAA postseason fate on Sunday night with the NCAA Softball Championship Selection Special on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. CT.