College softball: Still perfect in the Big 12, Oklahoma aims for historic regular season
Oklahoma is on the brink of history once again.
Texas gave the back-to-back national champion Sooners all they could handle in Sunday's 5-4 extra-inning finale, proving why it's so difficult to survive a full conference slate unscathed.
Only one team has done it in Big 12 history, Nebraska in 1998.
Led by Jenny Voss in the circle, touting a 40-9 record and a 1.36 ERA, and Ali Viola's incredible senior season, .424 batting average, with 22 home runs, 57 RBIs, 40 walks and 13 stolen bases, the Cornhuskers finished 48-12, including 16-0 in Big 12 regular season play.
One of three Big 12 teams to make the Women's College World Series that year, Nebraska would seemed to have had a tougher road than OU this season.
But the No. 3 Sooners (44-3, 15-0) have been dominant.
They have ended six contests early by mercy rule and outscored conference opponents 127-19. Only three of their 15 games have been on the road, thanks to the Iowa State series being moved to Norman due to inclement weather. However, those were at Baylor, the only other Big 12 team with a top-25 RPI ranking, and they outscored the Bears 18-1.
OU has clinched a share of a seventh-straight Big 12 regular-season title and needs to win just one of three against No. 23 Oklahoma State (36-16, 12-3), a series that starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Norman. A Sooner sweep would cap off a near-perfect regular season.
BOOOOMERRR!— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) May 2, 2018
It's almost Bedlam time in Oklahoma. Get up and get loud, Sooner Nation! pic.twitter.com/SB9jLHiZBl
Two losses came against top 10 opponents away from home. The other, against Boston University, was on Feb. 17 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and coach Patty Gasso said a good portion of the team was suffering from flu-like symptoms.
It's hard not to believe her.
On track for the best winning percentage in school history, the Sooners have three wins over teams in the RPI top 10, and with the sweep over Texas, jumped to No. 4 in those rankings. Barring a series loss to the Cowgirls, the Sooners should host both a regional and super regional after the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City.
That would put them on track to reach the Women's College World Series for the 11th time in 24 seasons under Gasso. Get there, and they have an opportunity for something really historic, win a third straight title. Only one other team has done that, UCLA in 1988-90, back when the Big 12 was the Big Eight and the college softball landscape looked a lot different.
But first things first, this could be the biggest Bedlam series ever, at least the most important one since 2011, when Oklahoma State stunningly made the WCWS despite an 8-10 conference record. Then, a conference title wasn't on the line. In fact, the only time the two Sooner state programs finished 1-2 in the Big 12 standings was in 1996, the league's inaugural season.
Still, Gasso isn't buying into the hype.
"It's no different," Gasso said. "We don't get caught up in the hype. We don't get caught up in the rivalries. We love to play in front of our crowd. We're just going to come out and do our thing."
For nearly all of this season, their "thing" has been winning.
This article is written by John McKelvey from The Norman Transcript, Okla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.