Big 12 Championship Begins Friday in OKC
NORMAN — Postseason play begins this weekend for the No. 1/1 Oklahoma softball team as it travels up I-35 for the 2019 Big 12 Championship at USA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
As the conference’s regular season champion, Oklahoma will compete as the No. 1 seed and face No. 4 Texas Tech (2 p.m.) and No. 6 Kansas (7:30 p.m.) in Friday’s pool play.
The Sooners are aiming to sweep Big 12 titles for the third straight season. OU finished the 2019 regular season 18-0 to claim its eighth consecutive regular season crown and to become the first team in Big 12 history to go undefeated in back-to-back seasons.
SOONERS SWEEP BIG 12 END-OF-YEAR AWARDS
After becoming the first team in Big 12 history to finish conference play undefeated in back-to-back seasons, the Sooners earned every individual award from the league on Wednesday and placed all eight nominees on the all-conference teams.
Sydney Romero was named Player of the Year, Giselle Juarez was tabbed Pitcher of the Year, Caleigh Clifton earned Defensive Player of the Year, Grace Green claimed Freshman of the Year and Patty Gasso was awarded Coach of the Year. This is the first time in Big 12 history that one school has swept every individual award.
Romero, Juarez, Clifton and Green were joined by senior Falepolima Aviu and sophomore Jocelyn Alo on the All-Big 12 First Team. Six first-team selections match a program record, tying the 2000 team. Senior Shay Knighten and junior Shannon Saile were both named to the All-Big 12 Second Team, and Green and infielder Grace Lyons were placed on the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.
With a 18-0 record in 2019, OU became the first program to finish Big 12 play undefeated in back-to-back seasons. The Sooners set a program and league record for consecutive conference wins with 43 in a row, dating back to 2017. OU is also undefeated in its last 54 conference series (50-0-4 in that span) and has not lost a conference series since 2011.
The Sooners finished the regular season leading the Big 12 in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, triples, home runs, walks drawn, ERA, opponent batting average, shutouts and strikeouts.
OU has finished first in the Big 12 over the past eight seasons with a combined record of 134-13. Prior to OU’s current run of eight straight regular-season titles, no team had ever won more than two consecutive titles. Overall, the Sooners have 18 Big 12 titles with 12 regular season crowns and six Big 12 tournament championships, all under current head coach Patty Gasso.
THERE'S ONLY ONE OKLAHOMA
After sweeping No. 12/13 Oklahoma State on the road last week, the Sooners remained ranked No. 1 in both the USA Today/NFCA Division I Coaches Poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 for the fourth week in a row. Oklahoma is the only program to be ranked every week of the NFCA poll all-time, a run of 365 straight polls.
Oklahoma earned its first NFCA No. 1 ranking after winning the 2000 national championship. It spent a school-record 11 straight weeks at No. 1 during the 2013 season, and also earned the designation after winning national titles in 2016 and 2017. The Sooners opened the 2017 and 2018 seasons as the No. 1 preseason team and were most recently ranked first by the NFCA Poll in week two of the 2018 season.
Speaking of No. 1, Oklahoma leads the nation in the following statistical categories: batting average (.366), earned run average (1.17), fielding percentage (.987), home runs per game (1.94), on-base percentage (.456), shutouts (22), slugging percentage (.679), strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.88) and win-loss percentage (.960).
Oklahoma has won 38 consecutive games, a program record and the nation’s longest active streak. The school record was broken on April 24 as the Sooners took down Wichita State to claim their 32nd straight win. The streak marks the third time in school annals that OU has strung together 30 straight wins and the seventh instance of 20 straight.
Overall, 38 straight wins are tied for the second-longest winning streak in NCAA Division I Softball history and match the longest ever achieved in one season. With two wins on Friday, Oklahoma would be the second team in DI history to win 40 consecutive games and the first to do so in one season.
With an 18-0 record in 2019 conference play, Oklahoma pushed its Big 12 regular season winning streak to 43 straight games, marking an OU and a Big 12 record. Its last conference loss was to Baylor in Norman on April 23, 2017.
Propelled by the streak, Oklahoma finished the regular season at 48-2, good for the best 50-game record in program history. Its 0.96 regular season winning percentage is also the best in school annals.
The Sooners’ win over Texas on April 19 put the Sooners at 40-2 on the year, marking the fewest games played in order to reach 40 wins in program history. Previously, the 2013 and 2018 teams reached the milestone in 43 games.
OU was undefeated in both March (19-0) and April (13-0). Under 25th-year head coach Patty Gasso, the Sooners have only gone undefeated throughout an entire month seven times, excluding June, and they have never done so twice in one season. The feat was also accomplished in March 2018, May 2016, February 2013, February 2007 and April 2001.
ROMERO, JUAREZ FINALISTS FOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Oklahoma senior infielder Sydney Romero and junior pitcher Giselle Juarez were named two of the 10 finalists for the 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year last week. Oklahoma is the only program in the country to have multiple student-athletes among the final 10 for the award, which is considered the most prestigious honor in NCAA Division I softball.
The top three finalists will be announced May 22, and the 2018 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be revealed May 28. Oklahoma alumna and current volunteer assistant coach Keilani Ricketts was a two-time recipient of the award.
GREEN A FINALIST FOR FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Utility player Grace Green is one of 10 finalists for the 2019 Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year, the NFCA announced Thursday. Green is one of two freshmen from the Big 12 among the final 10 candidates for Freshman of the Year, joining Texas pitcher Shealyn O’Leary.
This is the sixth season that the NFCA will name a Freshman of the Year; Oklahoma’s Paige Parker (2015) and Jocelyn Alo (2018) have both received the accolade. The top three finalists will be revealed on May 21, and the 2019 Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year will be announced on May 28.
The Oklahoma pitching staff is proving to be one of the best in the country in 2019, currently leading Division I softball in ERA (1.17), shutouts (22) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.88).
All three primary pitchers are ranked in the top 20 nationally in ERA. Shannon Saile ranks eighth (1.08), Mariah Lopez is ninth (1.10) and Giselle Juarez sits in 19th (1.32).
Saile, Juarez and Lopez rank 1-2-3 in the Big 12, respectively, in strikeouts per seven innings pitched. Nationally, Saile (11.2 K/7IP) holds second, Juarez (10.0) is seventh and Lopez (9.7) is 12th.
OU'S BIG 12 TOURNAMENT HISTORY
Oklahoma has earned six Big 12 posteason titles, winning the tournament in 1996, 2001, 2007, 2010, 2017 and 2018. Because the tournament was not played from 2011-16, the Sooners have won the last three championships.
In 2018, OU swept pool play with a 10-1 (six innings) win over Texas and a 9-6 win over Iowa State. In the title game, the Sooners defeated Baylor 6-4.
OU is 5-1 all-time against Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament and 4-3 against Kansas.