The only thing that is so rare as a day in June–a day so slow that ESPN covered live women’s softball on the mothership–is a loss by the Oklahoma Sooners softball team.
How rare? Well, they’re unbeaten so far this June. And there were unbeaten in May, too. And April. And March.
In fact, this afternoon’s win, the latest to be settled earlier than the typical seven innings because of a mercy rule, yet again broke another record, as the Associated Press’ Cliff Brint reported:
Oklahoma claimed its 50th straight win in style.
Tiare Jennings and Kinzie Hansen homered, and No. 1 seed Oklahoma rolled past No. 4 Tennessee 9-0 in five innings on Saturday to advance to the Women’s College World Series semifinals.
The Sooners (58-1) inched closer to a possible third consecutive national title and extended their Division I record for consecutive victories.
The Sooners have indeed been their before; as Blunt continued, they’re trying to be nonchalant about it:
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said the Sooners aren’t worried about the record.
“We don’t talk about it,” she said. “We don’t. We really don’t. Because what we want to do is bring a national championship back to the University of Oklahoma and the state of Oklahoma because that will never be taken away from us. You can never take that away. It will live forever.”
Don’t let her get away with that. This is a BIG deal.
Not only are they unbeaten in championships so far this decade, they’ve won six prior titles this century. To put this record in some perspective, it’s a longer winning streak than the longest college football winning streak of all time, set by their football team between 1953 and 1957. It’s more than halfway to the storied streaks of UCLA men’s and U Conn women’s basketball. You know how those teams are revered in sports legend.
But with the growing success of how many people of both genders and all ages are beginning to embrace women’s sports, most recently the recrod-setting ratings set in the NCAA women’s basketball championship game, and with growing anticipation for the women’s World Cup that starts later this month, this may be the most opportunistic moment for ESPN to give these ladies the exposure and the due that they deserve.
It’s not just they they are winning at this record pace, it’s also how they are doing so that merits attention. As USA Today’s LIndsay Schnell recently wrote, they got this opportunity to go their third consecutive series in pretty exciting fashion:
Trailing 7-4 in the seventh inning (note: regulation women’s softball games are seven innings) of Game 2 of the NCAA Softball super regionals, the top-ranked Sooners — the most dominant program of the 21st century — came back to beat Clemson 8-7 in nine innings to book their seventh consecutive trip to the Women’s College World Series. It was Oklahoma’s 48th win in a row, setting a new NCAA Division I softball record for most consecutive wins. Arizona held the record with 47 consecutive wins in 1996-97.
And they are doing all this in nearby Oklahoma City, which is to softball what Omaha is to college baseball. And considered all else there is to do in that neck of the woods this time of year, it’s no surprise they’ve already captured the state in a way their football teams, and certainly their NBA team, could only wish they could. And they deserve it.
You may not know these names yet, but by time this week ends, assuming this Bataan-like march continues as expected, you might. With NIL money and further prime time exposure ahead (because ABC has the NBA and TNT has the Stanley Cup) , you might even see some of these women get commercial deals.
But they need a rival. much as U Conn had Tennessee then and Iowa now has LSU. There’s a downside to being so dominant. Frankly, this game was more enjoyable to recap than it was to watch.
So I’m hoping that Oklahoma might have a slight slip-up ahead, as they did in losing Game 1 of the best-of-three final two years to Florida State, before winning the next two to take the first post-COVID title. The Seminoles are still alive; they need something to be excited about in their world these days, So is U-Dub. And Tennessee only has one loss so far in the double-elimination tournament, so they yet get another shot. To at least score a run and play in a sixth inning.
I like records, but I like storylines more. Give us one, Oklahoma, and watch the legend grow exponentially, Just do a tad less fine, Oklahoma. Oklahoma, O.K.?