Understand this about the Sooners – they won the 2016 NCAA championship, are returning 10 players with notable starting experience, and they only have one senior on the roster for 2017. That means youth dominates the roster, and Oklahoma is expected to be in the national mix for a while.
The Sooners were 57-8 last year, 17-1 in the Big 12, winning 30 straight games at one point and slipping past Auburn in a three-game thriller in Oklahoma City to claim the title – it’s the third one in OU history and the second in four years under head coach Patty Gasso. She has a .776 winning percentage and more than 1,000 wins in her 22 seasons in Norman.
A product of the national club powerhouse Corona Angels, sophomore Shay Knighten is back after a terrific debut, where she hit .397 with 13 home runs and 62 RBI. Junior Kelsey Arnold started all 65 games for OU, hitting .382 and stealing 15 bases, and sophomore Fale Aviu came through with a .355 batting average t go with eight home runs and 50 RBI.
Junior pitcher Paige Parker survived and even thrived under the pressure, going 38-3 with a 1.64 ERA, notching 269 strikeouts in 252.1 innings and limiting opponents to a .194 batting average.
NOTE: There were 174 innings not pitched by Parker last year, and none of those hurlers are on the 2017 roster. But the Sooners landed a key transfer from Missouri, Paige Lowary, who was sidelined for portions of 2016 after getting hit in the head with a line drive. She bounced back to finish 25-8 for the Tigers.