Oklahoma, which has won the past two Women’s College World Series and is the favorite to repeat this season, received the No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA softball tournament on Sunday.
The Sooners easily dispatched Texas on Saturday to take the Big 12 championship and go 51-1 on the season, and there was no question who would be ranked No. 1 when the regional seeds were announced on Sunday.
The real drama that heralded Sunday’s tournament was whether anyone among the 64 teams could topple Oklahoma from the throne.
UCLA, which defeated Oklahoma in last year’s World Series, took the 2 overall seed. After all, the four teams that shocked last year’s regionals — Florida State, Tennessee, Alabama and Washington — all earned multiple seeds in 2023.
Florida State earned the No. 3 seed, followed by No. 4 Tennessee, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 7 Washington and No. 8 Duke to surround the top half of the plant.
“The committee had to look at a lot of good teams with a good CV, especially for the top eight,” the chairman of the selection committee Kelly Gatwood said on the show. “We had to dig deep and look for the top 10 that would help us differentiate.”
Oklahoma will host Hofstra in the opener this weekend, while Missouri and Cal will join the Norman regionals. If the Sooners win on their way to a third straight title, they would set the NCAA mark for wins.
“We have a well-rounded team and a well-rounded team,” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said during the presentation. “It’s consistency, grit, effort, clutch — everything you want in the postseason.”
Oklahoma’s only loss came on Feb. 18 at Baylor as the Bears put up four runs in the third inning and ran away with a 4-3 victory. It’s the only loss Oklahoma has suffered since last year’s national series, when the Sooners fell to UCLA, 7-3, before reeling off three straight wins by a combined 41-6 to capture their second straight title.
Oklahoma leads the nation with a team ERA of 0.86. Only 10 other teams are close to completing the goal. The Sooners also lead the nation 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 two home runs this season, led by Jayda Coleman’s 14. Coleman and Tiare Jennings are both hitting better than .500, while the Sooners’ center Nicole May, Alex Storako and Jordy Bahl. each has won 15 or more games.
This year’s Bruins could be the best bet to knock Oklahoma off its game in the playoffs. UCLA is led by Maya Brady — granddaughter of Tom Brady — who hit .458 on the season with 18 home runs and 59 RBIs.
UCLA will host Grand Canyon in the opener, with San Diego State and Liberty also in the region for the Bruins.
Last year’s regionals came with plenty of drama as five unseeded teams advanced. Among the biggest upsets was a loss to No. 2 Florida State. The Seminoles are out for revenge this year, looking to be the No. 3 seed, but they will have their work cut out for them with nearby UCF in hot South Carolina and 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 semifinals on Friday, but still earned a top seed from the selection committee. The biggest concern, however, is the health of star Montana Fouts, who left the Tide’s quarter-final win over Arkansas with a leg injury. His position in the region is unknown.
“We focus on the team sheet, what they have been doing throughout the season, and the results of the games,” Gatwood said. “We don’t always know about injuries so we try to focus on the teams.”
The remaining seeds are 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 between 16th and 12th in the field. The Pac-12 had four seed 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 on June 1 in Oklahoma City, with the finals from June 7-9.