NORMAN — It’s not that coach Patty Gasso has her Oklahoma softball team headed back to the Women’s College World Series. It’s that the team she’ll bring to it actually looks like a championship team.
Given the season OU’s not entirely enjoyed, it’s kind of amazing.
Ten games into it, after tournaments at Fullerton, Calif., and Phoenix, the Sooners were 6-4, 0-3 against ranked teams and not exactly dominant against the rest. Two of their wins over that span were an 11-6 decision over Illinois State and a 7-6 escape against Michigan State.
The Sooners looked nothing like the defending national champions. They didn’t even look very good.
Since, OU’s gone 45-6.
Sunday, though it took the Sooners three games and a fight-the-good-fight stand not to have to play the third one north of midnight Saturday, they completed their super regional dispatching of Tennessee, the same program they swept in last years WCWS championship series.
Now they head back to Hall of Fame Stadium, strangely and incredibly, looking like a team that might give repeating a real chance.
As the No. 7 seed, OU’s draw won’t be terrific. Thursday, they open up against No. 2 seed Alabama. But get past the Tide and, well, count them out at your peril.
Gasso seems a little amazed by it all, too.
“We saw this team come together,” she said, a few minutes after that team ended the Lady Vols’ season.
The biggest question mark has been Kelsey Stevens.
It was OU’s No. 1 pitcher’s trials and tribulations, and the fact Gasso had no dependable Plan B, that brought Shelby Pendley out of mound retirement just to settle things down a little.
Even coming into the super regional, Stevens’ earned run average was 2.42, which is pretty good if you’re throwing a baseball, yet not so great if you’re trying to match up with the best hurlers in the women’s college game.