Oklahoma softball accomplishes unprecedented 4-peat by leaning on familiar faith

The Oklahoma Sooners softball team just became the first to win a fourth-straight national championship, relying on the same source of strength that started the streak: faith.

UCLA, the only…

The Oklahoma Sooners softball team just became the first to win a fourth-straight national championship, relying on the same source of strength that started the streak: faith.

UCLA, the only other program to three-peat, won titles from 1988-90 but failed to secure a championship in 1991.

The dominant Sooners had a few bumps along the way this season, accumulating nearly as many losses (seven) as they had in the previous three seasons combined (eight). Though the Sooners were still one of the top teams in collegiate softball, this season appeared to be a “down” year for the powerhouse program.

“Everybody has something to say about us all the time, and people counted us out. It was just a grind,” catcher Kinzie Hansen said regarding the adversity the team faced before winning the championship. “[We were] all-in, mentally, physically. And we fought the whole year, and it was so worth it in this moment.” 

Oklahoma lost its regular season series against Texas, which became the clear-cut favorite to win it all this year. After Oklahoma survived a last-out scare against Florida in the semifinals, it punched its ticket to a rematch with the rival Longhorns in the championship. 

The Sooners beat Texas soundly last Wednesday and Thursday as Kasidi Pickering hit crucial homers in both games to swing the momentum in the Sooners’ favor. Cydney Sanders drove in three massive runs on a double in the fourth inning during the closeout game, which secured the lead for good.  

Texas scored a single run in the sixth inning to chip away at the lead, but the Sooners responded with three more in the bottom half of the inning. Kelly Maxwell, after throwing 119 pitches in Game 1, came in as a reliever to shut the door on Texas for good by recording the final four outs for the Sooners. 

While the group that secured the four-peat has spent most of their collegiate careers together, it’s more than continuity that explains the success. According to head coach Patty Gasso, an eight-time national champion, the team’s culture of faith is the ultimate reason. 

“You hear their faith…has a lot to do with this, so they’re never afraid. They’re not afraid to lose,” she said. “This is bigger than a game for them. It’s about life. It’s about trust. It’s about all kinds of things they’ve changed each other’s lives with.” 

Baptisms and salvations have become a common occurrence in the program, such as pitcher Kierston Deal’s baptism earlier this season, the very day Oklahoma’s winning streak came to an end in a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Deal, who was credited with the win in Game 2 of the finals, was baptized by her teammates in a swimming pool on March 3, according to team chaplain Sarah Roberts. 

Third baseman Alyssa Brito, who helped baptize Deal, has been a vocal leader for the past two seasons, constantly encouraging the team to keep an eternal perspective during the ups and downs of a long season.  

Even in the tensest moment of the season, the last-out scare against Florida, Brito prayed over Jayda Coleman before she approached the plate. Coleman then hit a walk-off home run to end the game on that at-bat. 

“Even though I hit a home run, Jesus still loves me. … If I would have struck out, Jesus still loves me,” she explained in the post-game presser. “I think that just really put me into my foundation … Going around the bases, I just lost it and started crying because I just knew immediately, like, Brito, just the presence that I felt with God. It was incredible.” 

Though the team loses many key pieces to start next year, the legacy of this senior class is etched in stone. 

“They’ve cemented this program in history,” Gasso said of her already legendary senior players, adding, “They’ve cemented themselves in history. History can change, but these guys will never, ever be forgotten.”