By Arnie Leshin
The regional round has come and gone and it appears that No. 1, top of the heap Oklahoma, might be on its way to a third consecutive championship.
If you haven’t been followed the long run from day one for the Sooners, it’s the NCAA Division I National Softball Tournament they have dominated.
One loss, a 4-3 tough one against Baylor back on Feb. 28in Waco, was handily avenged two months later in a return to Waco that brought Oklahoma a trio of shutouts, two via the 5-inning mercy-rule.
The Sooners sport an awesome 53-1 overall record, they have won 41 in a row, have tossed 28 shutouts, and have set 23 opponents down in five innings time.
In the regionals they hosted in Norman, they blanked Wichita State, 11-0, Missouri, 11-0, and California, 16-3, all in five mercy frames. They were powered by six home runs from their incredibly potent offense versus California on Sunday.
They led all of Division I in most major statistics offensive categories that included team batting average, home runs per game, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and scoring.
They were also efficient in taking the extra base, stealing bases, and on defense very well in both the infield and outfield, plus they have three quality starting pitchers to go with depth among the staff.
Thus, they seek to three-peat as the first team to do so since UCLA in 1989-91. The Bruins incidentally were eliminated from this tournament. The host in Los Angeles as the No. 2 overall seed, they were ousted by San Diego State.
And so San Diego State hangs around to play at No. 15 Utah, the PAC-12 champion for the first time who dethroned ULCA.
As for Oklahoma, it will be home to No. 10 Clemson, which has been up and down with tight series games against Auburn and South Carolina.
So Florida State becomes the third seed who will play host to No. 14 Georgia, a quality squad. Could be a good one in Knoxville when No. 4 Tennessee welcomes No. 13 scrapy Texas.
In Tuscaloosa, fifth-seeded Alabama will meet up with 12th-seeded Northwestern. In Stillwater, No. 6 Oklahoma State will face Oregon, a surprise to reach this level.
In Seattle, it’s Louisiana-Lafayette, which won out over No. 10 LSU, in Baton Rouge, and now hoping to do the same at No. 7 Washington, while in a match of close seeds, No. 9 Stanford heads for No. 8 Duke in Durham.
The winners advance to the World Series played in Oklahoma City, only a short ride south of Norman for the Sooners.
They are in quest of their seventh title. UCLA, with 12, has the most. Arizona has won seven.