Oklahoma, which has won the past two Women’s College World Series and is the overwhelming favorite to do it again this season, received the No. 1 overall seed in the 2023 NCAA softball tournament on Sunday.
The Sooners dispatched Texas with ease on Saturday to capture the Big 12 championship and move to 51-1 on the season, and there was no question who’d land the No. 1 overall spot when the seedings were announced for regionals on Sunday.
The real drama with Sunday’s tournament announcement was whether there’s anyone in the crowd of 64 teams capable of elbowing Oklahoma off the throne.
UCLA, which scored a win over Oklahoma in last year’s World Series, captured the No. 2 overall seed. After that, four teams that were stunned in last year’s regionals — Florida State, Tennessee, Alabama and Washington — all landed high seeds in 2023.
Florida State got the No. 3 seed, followed by No. 4 Tennessee, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 7 Washington and No. 8 Duke to round out the top half of the seeds.
“The committee had to look at a lot of really good teams with good résumés, especially for the top eight,” selection committee chair Kelly Gatwood said on the selection show. “We really had to dig deep and look at top-10 wins that would help us differentiate.”
Oklahoma will host Hofstra in its opener this weekend, with Missouri and Cal joining them in the Norman regional. Should the Sooners win out en route to a third straight title, they would set the NCAA mark for winning percentage.
“We have a very balanced lineup and a balanced team,” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said during the selection show. “It’s consistency, grit, hard work, clutch — all those things you need in the postseason.”
Oklahoma’s lone defeat came on Feb. 18 at Baylor when the Bears put up four runs in the third inning and escaped with a 4-3 victory. It’s the only loss Oklahoma has endured dating back to last year’s world series, when the Sooners fell to UCLA 7-3 before reeling off three straight dominant wins by a combined score of 41-6 to take home their second straight title.
Oklahoma leads the nation with a team ERA of 0.86. Just 10 other teams are within a full run of that mark. The Sooners also lead the country in batting average (.368), on-base percentage (.463) and scoring (423 runs) and are second in homers (94), trailing Virginia Tech by just three despite playing four fewer games.
Oklahoma has five players with double-digit home runs this season, led by Jayda Coleman’s 14. Coleman and infielder Tiare Jennings both have an on-base percentage better than .500, while the Sooners’ rotation of Nicole May, Alex Storako and Jordy Bahl have each won 15 or more games.
This year’s Bruins might be the best bet to knock Oklahoma off its perch atop the sport. UCLA is led by Maya Brady — retired NFL quarterback Tom Brady’s niece — who hit .458 on the season with 18 home runs and 59 RBIs.
UCLA will host Grand Canyon in its opener, with San Diego State and Liberty also in the Bruins’ regional.
Last year’s regionals came with ample drama as five unseeded teams advanced. Among the biggest upsets was a loss by No. 2 overall seed Florida State. The Seminoles are out for some revenge this year, checking in as the No. 3 seed, but they’ll have their work cut out for them with nearby UCF and red-hot South Carolina also in the Tallahassee region, along with Marist.
Perhaps no team comes with more mystery than 5-seed Alabama. The Crimson Tide fell in the SEC semifinal Friday but still earned a high seed from the selection committee. More troubling, however, is the health status of star Montana Fouts, who left the Tide’s quarterfinal win over Arkansas because of a leg injury. Her status for the regional is not known.
“We focus on the team sheet, what they’ve done throughout the season and the results on the field,” Gatwood said. “We don’t always know the information about injuries, so we try to keep our focus on the teams.”
The remaining seeds belong to No. 9 Stanford, No. 10 LSU, No. 11 Arkansas, No. 12 Northwestern, No. 13 Texas, No. 14 Georgia, No. 15 Utah and No. 16 Clemson.
The SEC led the way with five teams among the top 16 and 12 in the field. The Pac-12 had four seeded teams, while the Big 12 and ACC each had three.
Regionals begin May 19, with super regionals set for May 25-28. The Women’s College World Series begins June 1 in Oklahoma City, with the finals June 7-9.