The Oklahoma Sooners take the Women’s College World Series field in Oklahoma City against a familiar foe, the Baylor Bears. As defending National Champions, expectations remain high from those surrounding the program. However, a lot about this team has changed since playing in Puerto Vallarta to being the season.

“I think we’re a little more confident team and even a little more complete,” said Head Coach Patty Gasso just ahead of the WCWS. “Pitchers have really found their groove. Offense has improved some. So I just think we’re just a little more complete than we were in early April.”

Last season, fans witnessed Paige Parker step into the circle during Regionals. Throwing every inning of every game through Regionals and Super Regionals, Parker remained in the circle until the second game of the Championship Series — a game Oklahoma lost to Auburn. The addition of players like Paige Lowary and Mariah Lopez have taken much of the pressure to deliver every single game off Parker’s shoulders.

That fact was on display after Oklahoma lost the 2017 Regional opener in Norman to NDSU. Staving off four elimination games to advance, Parker saw a mere 13 innings of work while OU played 30 total innings. Sure, Parker may have pitched a complete game shutout in game one of the Supers, but she sat out the following day.

With a few options to place in the circle, “we need to be calculated and smart in what we’re doing” mentioned Coach Gasso.

All three pitchers sport an ERA below .200 alongside a sub .200 opponent batting average with at least 28 appearances throughout the season. Yet, the most impressive number may be the combined strikeout to walk ratio per seven innings. Refusing to give up numerous free bases, the trio combined for just over five strikeouts to one walk every seven innings.

This is not a slight to the offense but it’s clear the strength of this team lies within the pitching staff this season.