Patty Gasso’s career wins and seven more defining stats from OU’s opening weekend

Patty Gasso’s career wins and seven more defining stats from OU’s opening weekend

The top-ranked Sooners opened the 2024 campaign with four wins at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. These numbers tell the story of OU’s season-opening weekend in Mexico.

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

| Feb 12, 2024, 3:41pm CST

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

Feb 12, 2024, 3:41pm CST

(Eli Lederman’s “OU Week in Review” newsletter hits inboxes every Saturday morning. Subscribe here.)

NORMAN — Four wins (including a Friday night nail-bitter), 24.1 scoreless innings between four pitchers and a run differential of +25. 

That’s how top-ranked Oklahoma began its latest title defense in Mexico over the weekend.

Victories over Utah Valley, No. 11 Duke, No. 7 Washington and Long Beach State made up the Sooners’ season-opening sweep at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. All told, OU bats accounted for 31 runs over the weekend, none more important than the runs Riley Ludlam and Rylie Boone knocked in to fuel Friday’s come-from-behind, extra-inning win against Washington. 

With Saturday’s 11-3 rout of Long Beach State, OU’s NCAA-record win streak now stands at 57 games ahead of the Sooners’ upcoming trip to the Cowgirl Classic at McNeese State.

OU is officially off and rolling in 2024. These are some of the numbers that defined the Sooners’ opening weekend in Mexico:

Patty Gasso’s career win total: 1,460

As long as OU continues to smash NCAA records, so will Patty Gasso.

The pair of victories the Sooners notched Thursday afternoon brought Gasso’s career total to 1,458, taking OU’s 30th-year coach beyond former Illinois State and Fresno State coach Margie Wright for third all-time in NCAA softball history.

Two more wins over the weekend leaves Gasso’s career win count at 1,460. The Sooners’ legendary coach now trails only Arizona’s Mike Candrea (1,674) and Michigan’s Carol Hutchins (1,707) in all-time victories.

Freshmen Kasidi Pickering and Ella Parker: 8-for-20 

Here was Gasso on the pair of freshmen last week: “Ella Parker’s gotta be in this lineup, so that’s one thing that I’m certain (of). Kassidy Pickering is a big-time hitter, as well.”

It took a matter of days for those newcomers to prove Gasso right.

Let’s begin with Pickering, the No. 4 prospect in the 2023 class who sent a message with her very first college at-bat. Pickering’s opposite-field grand slam in the bottom of the first inning of Thursday’s opener against Utah Valley marked an eye-catching start to her college career and sent the Sooners on their way to a 13-0 victory in five innings.

Thursday’s early blast was just the start to Pickering’s hot weekend at the plate. She drove in three more runs over the course of the tournament and closed the event leading OU hitting .455 with five hits from 11 players appearances and a team-high seven RBI.

Parker, meanwhile, left her own mark over the first four games of her college career.

Parker’s two-RBI, inside-the-park home run sparked a five-run second inning in the win over Utah Valley. She recorded two more hits through the weekend and delivered another RBI against Long Beach State. Parker begins the week hitting .333 with four walks, which is tied for most among OU hitters. 

Gasso opened the season confident in Pickering and Parker as Day 1 contributors in 2024. The freshmen duo showed why on the Sooners’ trip to Mexico.

Pitchers used: 5

Last week, we explained why the Sooners would rely on a deeper pitching staff in 2024. In Mexico, OU followed that plan over its initial four games.

Nicole May got the start in Thursday’s opener and fanned six batters across 7.0 scoreless innings in a pair of appearances against Utah Valley and Washington. Oklahoma State transfer Kelly Maxwell led OU pitchers with 7.2 innings pitched over the weekend and notched her 750th career strikeout and her 60th career win along the way. Elsewhere in the circle, transfer additions Karlie Keeney and Paytn Monticelli combined for 9.2 scoreless innings.

From the program’s four most experienced pitchers, OU got 24.1 scoreless innings. That’s an early endorsement for the depth the Sooners plan to make good use of this spring.

The lone blemish on OU’s weekend pitching came through sophomore Kierston Deal. After tossing a scoreless inning against Utah Valley, Deal gave up three earned runs on four hits and two walks over 1.2 innings in the finale with Long Beach State. 

Impact at-bats from Riley Ludlam: 1

Sometimes, Gasso can seem prescient when she speaks about her team. Before the Sooners traveled to Mexico, she described Furman transfer Riley Ludlam as “our senior catcher off the bench that can change the game in one swing.”

Trailing Washington late Friday night, Ludlam came off the bench and did just that.

Ludlam’s pinch-hit single brought home Maya Bland and brought the Sooners level in the top of the sixth inning against the Huskies. Two innings later, Rylie Boone delivered the go-ahead single that put the Sooners on top and kept OU’s win streak intact in the comeback win.

It was Ludlam’s lone at-bat of the weekend. With her first opportunity in a Sooners uniform, the veteran transfer made a difference. 

Win streak: 57

Speaking of the win streak, OU notched another bit of history over the weekend.

The Sooners topped Arizona’s Division I record of 47-straight wins on its way to the national title last spring and began this season with an active win streak of 53 wins in a row.

Friday’s win over Washington took OU’s current streak to 56 consecutive victories, vaulting the Sooners past Northern Kentucky for the longest winning streak in NCAA softball history across all divisions, eclipsing the 55-straight wins the Norse tallied as a Division II program in 2005.

Alyssa Brito home runs: 3

Plenty has been made about Alyssa Brito’s glove, and for good reason. OU’s decision to keep the senior infield at third base this spring is a testament to Brito’s fielding ability.

Just don’t forget about Brito’s bat, either.

The third-year Sooner knocked three home runs, including two in the finale with Long Beach State, on her way to claiming honors as the tournament’s most outstanding player. Altogether, Brito went 5-for-12 (.417) with three home runs, five RBI and six runs scored over the weekend.

Iguana stoppages: 1

If you weren’t subscribed to FloSoftball for the slate of games in Mexico, you might have missed Friday’s iguana-stoppage in the Sooners’ 3-0 win over Duke. 

One iguana-related stoppage isn’t a lot. But it’s more than you’d expect.

Tiare Jennings career home runs: 75

Sooners shortstop Tiare Jennings launched a pair of home runs in Mexico to open the curtain on her senior season in Norman. Now, where might she land on the program’s all-time home run list by season’s end?

Jennings passed Shelby Pendley for the third-most home runs in program history last spring. With her blasts against Duke and Long Beach State, Jennings now sits at 75 career home runs, 22 behind Lauren Chamberlain’s count of 95 that rank second all-time behind Jocelyn Alo (122).

Barring the greatest slugging season in college softball history, Jennings won’t chase down Alo’s record for the most career home runs in program (and NCAA) history. But Chamberlain’s mark and second-place in the Sooners’ all-time record book is well in range.

To pass Chamberlain, Jennings will need to reach 25 home runs this spring, a number she eclipsed in each of her first two seasons at OU in 2021 (27) and 2022 (29). 

Under the assumption of a deep postseason run, OU has 48 regular season games and roughly 12 postseason games remaining. That means Jennings will have to keep a clip of about 0.38 home runs per game to top Chamberlain’s career total. For reference, Jennings’ only college season in which she performed below a 0.45 home run per game rate came last spring when she slugged a career-low 17 home runs (0.27 per game).

Jennings has already asserted her place among the top home run hitters in program history. Her chase for second all-time in the category is off to a good start. 

Up next: OU travels to Lake Charles, Louisiana, for five games at the McNeese State-hosted Cowgirl Classic starting Friday afternoon. All five games will be streamed on ESPN+.

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Eli Lederman reports on the University of Oklahoma for Sellout Crowd. He began his professional career covering the University of Missouri with the Columbia Missourian and later worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before two years writing on the Sooners and Cowboys at the Tulsa World. Born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York, Lederman grew up a rabid consumer of the New York sports pages and an avid fan of the New York Mets. He entered sportswriting at 14 years old and later graduated from the University of Missouri. Away from the keyboard, he can usually be found exploring the Oklahoma City food scene or watching/playing fútbol (read: soccer). He can be reached at [email protected].

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