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SPORTS: University of Oklahoma

Oklahoma Softball Transcends Greatness En Route To National Title

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Greatness isn't very hard to recognize.

In the case of the Oklahoma Sooners softball team, greatness doesn't even begin to describe what transpired during a 2013 season that saw the Sooners cruise through any and all opposition en route to the national championship.

Domination. Historical. Unprecedented. Greatest.

These terms tell the tale of just how good this team was this season. Sure, the Sooners were great, but they were oh so much more than that.

Consider some of these statistics that speak to the dominance of Oklahoma this season.

-Oklahoma became the first team in NCAA history to lead the nation in runs per game (7.8) and ERA (1.16)

-Oklahoma finished the season 57-4 and an incredible 55-0 when scoring at least three runs

-OU run-ruled 25 opponents, nearly half of their 57 wins

-OU outscored opponents 476-74 this season. Oklahoma's run differential was more than 280 teams' run totals for the year

-OU went 23-3 against ranked teams in 2013, winning by run-rule in seven games

-In the postseason, Oklahoma outscored opponents 91-16, run-ruling five opponents

That doesn't even include all of the accolades from the individuals on the team, including the best pitcher (Ricketts), best hitter (Chamberlain) and so many more.

After Tuesday night's 4-0 over Tennessee that clinched the Sooners' second title in program history, OU coach Patty Gasso admitted what many had already assumed as the season progressed and the wins piled up.

Related Story: Mission Accomplished: Oklahoma Claims 2013 National Championship

The Sooners knew what they had to look forward to in 2013, so appearing in the 2012 WCWS championship series was almost like an added bonus. Oklahoma fell to Alabama, but despite the pain, there was plenty of promise in the future.

"When that last out was recorded, all of a sudden the Sooners were supposed to be the team to beat," Gasso said Tuesday night. "It's very difficult to live that way. But this team is resilient. We followed the path, and it was windy at times, but we never stepped off; and we just did it together. I cannot express to you how proud I am."

There was really no other way for this season to end for Oklahoma; it was national championship or tremendous disappointment. As Gasso said, that expectation is an enormous burden to bear, but not every team that has faced that level of expectations has experienced the kind of pain Oklahoma did in 2012, nor have they been able to share the burden among so much talent as Oklahoma did this season.

The only reason the Sooners didn't begin the season at No. 1 was because it was Alabama that won the 2012 national championship, but after that first weekend tournament, the Sooners jumped to the top spot and maintained a stranglehold on the position until the trophy was in their hands.

As the season went along, it became apparent the Sooners had become an unstoppable force of nature that wasn't going to be denied a national championship a second time. The opening weekend of the season was as good an indicator as any. Keilani Ricketts began the season by throwing a no-hitter in a 6-0 win over Stanford. The Sooners followed that win by run-ruling three straight opponents, including a 12-0 pasting of then-No. 5 Oregon.

It seemed obvious the Sooners would be hoisting the trophy Tuesday night, but Monday night's dramatic, comeback win over the Lady Vols erased any doubt that remained. It was the first time the Sooners had really faced intense, late-game adversity all season and Oklahoma responded like it was nothing.

It's impossible to definitively say for sure if this Oklahoma team is the greatest college softball team to ever take the field. The game has changed over the years and the overall quality of the sport has been raised considerably since UCLA and Arizona ruled the sport with little resistance in the 1980s and 90s.

However, it's safe to say that few teams have ever possessed such immense talent in the circle and at the plate—and not just one or two players on each side, but up and down the entire lineup.

It's an unsatisfying answer for a society that enjoys clarity and despises ambiguity, but it will have to do.

When the 2013 season began, Oklahoma was focused on simply winning a national championship, something that requires a certain level of greatness. The Sooners weren't aiming to be one of the best teams in softball history, but that's exactly what happened.

And that, transcends greatness.

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