Paige Parker pitched a nearly perfect game and the Oklahoma Sooners’ womens’ softball team downed Auburn 2-1 to win the national championship.
“First of all, I have to in victory or defeat, in this group we give God the glory,” said OU coach Patty Gasso. “We took a journey that he led us on, and we just continued to work hard as a group. A lot of people talked about us being young, and we never let that give us any reason for excuse.
“And I also need to absolutely congratulate Auburn. What a great team. Very well-coached. They made us have to play so much better. They made us better. Clint Myers and his staff are tremendous. They do their homework. They knew what they were doing. They have some great athletes, and I congratulate them. They definitely were one of the toughest teams we’ve faced this season.
“I felt our team definitely took the hard road through this. We had to open up with Alabama, and that was a very tough game, and then on to — who did we play next? Michigan, LSU. We played some of the best in the country, so I definitely feel like this team earned every second of our success because they played from the first pitch to the last.”
Oklahoma won national championships in softball in 2000 and 2013. The Sooners shredded three Southeastern Conference teams, Alabama, LSU and Auburn plus Michigan from the Big 10 to win the title.
The star for Oklahoma was pitcher Paige Parker, who was 5-0 in the title run. Parker threw 107 pitches, struck out five and walked one.
“I can’t say enough about not just Paige Parker but the whole team playing great defense behind her,” Gasso said. “Tonight was a tribute to a great pitching performance who shut down a very potent offense and a defense that made incredible plays behind her.”
It was an added bonus that the championship was played in Oklahoma.
“I would say the connection this team has with their fans is very, very special,” said OU’s Erin Miller. “We have something that a lot of programs don’t, and that’s Sooner tradition. This university is something incredible, and I think anyone that’s a part of it could say that. As a senior, I can’t thank our fans enough. Playing here has been the greatest four years of my life.”
“It was one of the most fantastic feelings that I’ve ever had in my whole life,” Parker said. “Our fans this year have been so vital to all of the things that we’ve done. They’ve supported us so much, and to have all of them here and to have all of our families here, as well, just meant so much to us, and it was just incredible to get to share this feeling with them, as well.”
The Tulsa members of the team are infielder Kelsey Arnold (Holland Hall), Miller (Jenks High School) and infielder/outfielder Paris Townsend (Holland Hall).
OU fielded one of the youngest teams in the tournament this year.
“I think the first thing that Coach mentioned when this year started was that we’re never going to use the excuse that we were young and that kind of set the stakes for the rest of the year,” said Miller. “Our mantra for the year was team. We lost some really good seniors, and we weren’t going to let that defeat us, and I think this team really took that upon themselves to prove to the nation that we can do it without those big names. Our freshmen absolutely stepped up. They played like veterans the entire year. They’re going to do some amazing things in years to come.”
Auburn, who had never won a national title, snapped Oklahoma’s 31-game win streak last Tuesday to force Game 3. The Sooners hadn’t lost a game since April 2.
“I think this whole year we’ve really focused on letting our personalities shine, having fun, playing loose, playing free (laughter), so I think that has really been something that we’ve clung to was just being ourselves no matter what the situation is,” Miller said. “That was really the talk before this game was don’t change who you are; that’s how we got to this point. We went back there, and I think that’s just who we are. That’s how this team lives.”