Oklahoma takes NCAA-record win streak into Big 12 tourney
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma's elite softball program has outdone itself this time.
The Sooners, who have won two of the past three national titles, have matched the Division I record for consecutive wins in a season with 38 (South Carolina, 1997). They can set a new mark Friday if they win a Big 12 Tournament game against Texas Tech in Oklahoma City. Arizona won 47 straight spanning the 1996 and 1997 seasons.
The business-like Sooners (48-2) got this far, in part, because they don't worry about the numbers.
"To be honest with you, our team doesn't even focus on that at all," senior infielder Sydney Romero said. "I couldn't even tell you the number of the streak is, and I don't think anyone here can. We're aware of it. It's something that we take game by game. We don't come out thinking, 'Oh, let's make our streak go on.' We want to win. We play to win. That's our mentality."
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, who has led the Sooners to four national titles, said this group stands out.
"There's a special type of thing going on," she said. "When they're on the field, they're just so unified. It's enjoyable for them, they are very confident. It's a team that does things pretty easy."
Oklahoma has done it with balance. The Sooners lead the nation in batting average (.366), earned run average (1.17) and fielding percentage (.987).
"On some days our pitching will be there," said Caleigh Clifton, a senior infielder. "On other days, our hitting will pick us up. Any time there's someone we need to pick up, someone's always there to pick us up. Even if all three cylinders aren't clicking, two of them are, and it's good enough to buy us time."
Romero leads the Big 12 in hitting (.431) and home runs (17). Clifton, Jocelyn Alo and freshman Grace Green all have double-digit homers and rank among the top five in the conference in that category.
In the circle, Arizona State transfer Giselle "G'' Juarez is 21-0 and has held opponents to a Big 12-low .144 batting average. Mariah Lopez ranks third in the league with 17 wins. Shannon Saile has a 10-1 record with four saves and ranks second nationally with 11.19 strikeouts per game.
"Our pitching staff is very connected," Gasso said. "There's no jealousy. It's a small little sisterhood. They pass the torch to each other, so it's really an ideal situation where they're all working well together."
Juarez, a member of Puerto Rico's national program, helped Arizona State reach the Women's College World Series last year, then transferred before this season.
"As soon as she walked on campus, we just opened up our arms and we welcomed her," Clifton said. "She's a perfect piece that fits right in with us."
The Sooners haven't lost since Feb. 22, in part because they have embraced the grind.
"I just think it's just a matter of us continuing to put in the work," Romero said. "It's showing, and I think that's really important as a team. This team is huge on team and not individual, and I think if we stay focused on that, it'll keep going for us."
And if more records fall, the Sooners will appreciate it.
"The win streak is not something that we ever think about," Clifton said. "That's not what we're playing for or anything like that. But once someone brings it up to us, it's like, 'Wow! We did that!'"
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