The Oklahoma Sooners will begin their quest for three-straight national championships in 16 days when they face off with the No. 19 Duke Blue Devils for the first of five games in the opener of the Mark Campbell Invitational in Irvine, California.
The Sooners lost key pieces to their 2022 squad, like Jocelyn Alo, Hope Trautwein, Lynnsie Elam, and Taylon Snow, but they looked locked and loaded for 2023. With transfer additions like Alex Storako, Cydney Sanders, Alynah Torres, and Haley Lee, the Sooners could be as good or better than they were a year ago.
They have a deep lineup that features seven players with a season of 14 home runs or more and four players with a 20-home run season in their careers. You can’t replace a Jocelyn Alo, but the Sooners lineup looks incredibly deep heading into 2023. Are there enough at-bats for the talented hitters that Patty Gasso has assembled?
Jayda Coleman, CF
June 9, 2022; Oklahoma City; Oklahoma Sooners center fielder Jayda Coleman (24) hits the ball for an out during the fifth inning against the Texas Longhorns in game two of the 2022 Women’s College World Series finals at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Oklahoma won 10-5 to win the National Championship. Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Jayda Coleman has been a key cog at the top of the lineup getting on base ahead of Jocelyn Alo the last couple of seasons. Though there will be a new No. 2 hitter behind her, the goal is still the same. In 2022, Coleman hit eight home runs and drove in 40 from the top of the order to go along with her .584 on-base percentage.
Cydney Sanders, 1B
May 22, 2022; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State freshman infielder Cydney Sanders (1) celebrates a homer against San Diego State while the Sun Devil dugout cheers her on as she nears home plate during the Tempe Regionals Championship at Farrington Stadium. Alex Gould/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK
How do you replace a player like Jocelyn Alo? One would think that’s an impossible task. However, Patty Gasso might have found an answer in Arizona State transfer Cydney Sanders. Sanders hit 21 home runs as a freshman for the Sun Devils and batted .425. We’re going to slide her into the two-hole to give her the same protection Alo was afforded the last two seasons.
Tiare Jennings, 2B
Jun 9, 2022; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners second baseman Tiare Jennings (23) holds back a throw to first base during the second inning against the Texas Longhorns in game two of the 2022 Women’s College World Series finals at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Oklahoma won 10-5 to win the National Championship. Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
It could make just as much sense to flip Sanders and Tiare Jennings, but we’re going to let Jennings stay where she’s been incredibly productive in her two seasons in Norman.
Jennings has led Oklahoma in RBI’s each of her first two seasons, including her 2021 National Freshman of the Year campaign. She’ll help 2022 freshman of the year Sanders improve on her incredible numbers from a year ago.
Kinzie Hansen, C
Oklahoma’s Kinzie Hansen (9) celebrates after hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning of the championship series in the Women’s College World Series between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas Longhorns at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 9, 2022. Oklahoma won the second game 10-5 to sweep Texas for the NCAA softball title. SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK
While 2022 was a down year for Kinzie Hansen, she came through in the clutch for the Sooners in the Women’s College World Series championship clincher vs. Texas. She had a big year in 2021 and we’re betting on a bounce-back campaign at the plate for one of the leaders in the program.
Grace Lyons, SS
June 9, 2022; Oklahoma City; Oklahoma Sooners shortstop Grace Lyons (3) hits a three run home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Longhorns in game two of the 2022 Women’s College World Series finals at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Oklahoma won 10-5 to win the National Championship. Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
The best shortstop in college softball had a career year at the plate in 2022. Grace Lyons hit .401, with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs to help give the Sooners a third player with 20 or more dingers.
Alyssa Brito, 3B
Jun 9, 2022; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners left fielder Alyssa Brito (33) dives safely into home ahead of the throw to Texas Longhorns catcher Mary Iakopo (33) during the fourth inning in game two of the 2022 Women’s College World Series finals at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Oklahoma won 10-5 to win the National Championship. Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Alyssa Brito was an incredible transfer addition for the Oklahoma Sooners last offseason and made a huge impact in the lineup. She hit .368 with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs. After playing left field for the Sooners last year, she slides back into the infield to play third base. She was a standout shortstop during her time at Oregon.
Alynah Torres, LF
May 29, 2022; Tempe, Ariz., U.S.; Arizona St. infielder Alynah Torres (40) hits a solo home run against Northwestern during the Tempe Super Regional final at Farrington Stadium. Michael Chow-Arizona Republic
Another addition from Arizona State, Alynah Torres will have a huge impact at Oklahoma. She hit 14 home runs and drove in 40 RBIs for the Sun Devils in 2022. Torres could play third base for the Sooners, but likely will follow a similar path as Alyssa Brito who moved to left field during her first season with the Sooners.
Haley Lee, Designated Player
Texas A&M’s Haley Lee (25) celebrates after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning of a softball game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and Texas A&M in the NCAA Norman Regional at Marita Hynes Field in Norman, Okla., Saturday, May 21, 2022. Oklahoma won 3-2. Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Another transfer addition to the Oklahoma Sooners, Haley Lee, could help Oklahoma at multiple positions. She could lineup at catcher, play some first base, or platoon left field with Torres. She’ll be an invaluable part of the Sooners offense as well after hitting .405 with 15 home runs and 45 RBIs in 2022.
Another name to watch here is true freshman Jocelyn Erickson, a left-handed bat that was the Gatorade Arizona Softball Player of the Year after the 2021-2022 season.
Rylie Boone, RF
June 2, 2022; Oklahoma City; Oklahoma Sooners outfielder Rylie Boone (0) watches the ball and gets a double during the third inning of the NCAA Women’s College World Series game against the Northwestern Wildcats at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Oklahoma won 13-2. Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Rylie Boone proved to be an integral part of the Oklahoma Sooners lineup at the bottom of the order. She served as a second lead-off hitter, getting on base in front of the top of the Sooners lineup featuring Coleman, Alo, and Jennings. Boone was third on the team in batting average, hitting .408 in 2022. She had two home runs, 27 RBIs, and an on-base percentage of .438.
Boone finished the 2022 campaign on a high note, hitting .500 with eight runs scored in the Sooners final six games of the College World Series.
Jun 2, 2022; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners starting pitcher/relief pitcher Jordyn Bahl (98) throws a pitch during the fifth inning of the NCAA Women’s College World Series game against the Northwestern Wildcats at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Oklahoma won 13-2. Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Though the Sooners have a nice group of pitchers in Jordy Bahl, Alex Storako, Nicole May, and freshmen Kierston Diehl and SJ Guerin, it will be Bahl that leads the Sooners in the circle.
Jordy Bahl took the world by storm in her first season in Norman with her power pitching approach and her ferocity. She looked like a lioness stalking its prey as she prepared to enter the circle.
As a true freshman, Bahl threw 141.1 innings and went 22-1 with 205 strikeouts, and 14 complete games.
Having Storako to take on the Hope Trautwein role is huge for the Sooners. She brings a ton of experience and production to the circle to give Patty Gasso a pair of dynamic strikeout artists.
Storako threw 200 innings in 2022 and collected 300 strikeouts with an earned run average (ERA) of just 1.71. Michigan had just one other pitcher throw more than 100 innings last season and no other pitcher threw more than 44 innings. That put a heavy workload on Storako. She’ll benefit from not having to carry the team in the circle, which will help her stay fresh. In 2022, the Sooners had three pitchers throw more than 90 innings in Bahl, Trautwein, and Nicole May.
Nicole May had a fantastic season in 2022. Her 1.30 ERA was 11th in the nation, just behind Oklahoma State standout Kelli Maxwell. It just so happens that Trautwein and Bahl had a better ERA. For a lot of teams across the country, May would be the ace on the staff. She’s won 30 games for the Sooners in each of her first two seasons and improved her ERA by more than a point from 2021 to 2022. Though Bahl and Storako may be getting the buzz, don’t sleep on May to have a huge impact for the Sooners in 2023.
It’ll be interesting to see what Patty Gasso does with her freshmen pitchers. Kierston Diehl was the No. 1 player and No. 1 pitcher in the 2022 recruiting class. She’ll likely get some opportunities, but unlike Bahl last year, she won’t have to step into a feature role right away unless she’s shown she’s ready to do so.
The same goes for SJ Guerin, the No. 7 pitcher in the 2022 recruiting class. Throwing from the left side, however, Patty Gasso and Jennifer Rocha will have the benefit of playing the matchups.
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