We'll have a Red River rivalry for the 2022 Women's College World Series title when Texas takes on No. 1 Oklahoma in the championship series.
Oklahoma, the defending champion, seeks its sixth all-time title. The Sooners were an undisputed preseason No. 1 in the d1softball.com poll and have played like it all season on the way to a 57-3 record. The Longhorns (47-20-1) are in the finals for the first time and are the first unseeded team in history to advance to the championship series.
Here is the schedule for the best-of-three series (all times ET):
- Game 1: Texas vs. Oklahoma at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8 | ESPN | Livestream
- Game 2: Oklahoma vs. Texas at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 9 | ESPN2 | Livestream
- Game 3 (if necessary): 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 | ESPN
How they got here: Texas advanced by taking down two ranked teams: No. 13 Washington in the regionals and No. 4 Arkansas in the supers. The Longhorns had to get through some fantastic pitching from Washington's Gabbie Plain and Arkansas' Chenise Delce and Mary Haff. They continued their hot postseason streak with an upset in Game 1 of the WCWS over UCLA before dropping the second game to none other than Oklahoma. The Longhorns then took down Arizona to avoid elimination and advance to the semifinals, where they faced OSU — a team that swept them earlier in the season.
The Longhorns, though, took down OSU 5-0 in the first game to force a deciding game. Again, they had their backs up against the wall when they fell behind 5-0 with OSU's Kelly Maxwell in the circle. The Longhorns capitalized on mistakes, pulled off the comeback and advanced to the title series with a 6-5 win.
The Sooners stayed in the winner's bracket with a run-rule win over Northwestern and then the 7-2 win over Texas. UCLA pulled off a 7-3 victory in the semifinals, which Oklahoma then followed up with a 15-0 mercy-rule win.
What to know about Texas: The Longhorns are a dangerous foe right now. An unseeded team, hot at the right time and playing with nothing to lose is a scary opponent to face. They are playing clean, airtight defense, and the bats are hot. Courtney Day, for one, has homered in the past three WCWS games, including the three-run bomb to spark the comeback against Oklahoma State. Janae Jefferson is the true leader of this team. The four-time All American makes highlight-reel plays in the field (check out the one at 2:21 in the clip below to see what she called "probably the best play I've ever made") and smashes homers at the plate. She is the toughest out on the team. Mary Iakopo is another senior leader and spark plug for the Longhorns. She comes up clutch in big moments.
The thing about Texas that makes them so fun to watch though, is that they really do have a different player step up every game. That could be at the plate, or more often than not, in the circle.
Texas' pitching is going to be so vital in the title series, and luckily for them, they have Hailey Dolcini. Dolcini transferred to the program for her fifth season and will now end her career in OKC. She has been a workhorse for the Longhorns, carrying a large majority of innings pitched. It was Dolcini that defeated the mighty Sooners, too, back on April 16 when Texas was the first team to beat Oklahoma this season. Estelle Czech has been huge for the Longhorns in the WCWS — she came in and threw a complete-game shutout in the first win over OK State. Czech and Day will be key to help out Dolcini in the championship series.
Oklahoma: What more can you say about the Sooners that the whole country doesn't already know? They are the most dominant offense in the history of softball, led by the greatest hitter college softball has ever seen, Jocelyn Alo. She's the two-time National Player of the Year but forget about walking her, because Tiare Jennings and Grace Lyons hit behind her. We saw what happened against UCLA. Jayda Coleman led off with a walk, Alo doubled, and then Jennings smashed the three-run bomb. The entire team can hit the long ball, and in big moments too. They have hit three grand slams already in OKC. So no... no moment is too big.
The pitching staff is just as scary. Head coach Patty Gasso confirmed Tuesday that Jordy Bahl is ready to go in the championship series. We haven't seen too much of her yet in OKC as she returns from injury, but Hope Trautwein has gotten the job done with ease. Bahl will bring another level of excitement, though, if she gets the start in the circle.
Defeating Oklahoma is clearly possible. But can anyone beat them twice? Listen to this stat — every OU loss this season was followed by a run-rule victory. If you beat Oklahoma, they are sure to make you regret it the next time around. The 15-0 win over UCLA following the Game 1 loss in the semifinals was the largest win in WCWS history.
The matchup: The Sooners have taken down Texas three out of four times they have played this season. But this is a different Texas team. The initial reaction is that OU is the clear favorite. Going back-to-back is a tough thing to do in any sport, yes, but guess who the last team to do it was. Oklahoma in 2016 and 2017. (Think Shay Knighten and Sydney Romero)
Dolcini has found a way to quiet the Sooner bats once before, and they will need to find a way to do it twice. Minimizing mistakes will be so important for Texas — you cannot give Oklahoma any giveaways.
So yes, there is the David and Goliath feel with it being the dominant Sooners vs. an unseeded team, but there is another element to this matchup: rivalry. Texas is going to want this thing. They are looking for their first-ever national title and over a Big 12 rival, the best team in the nation.
We'll get the answer beginning with Game 1 on Wednesday.