The phrase “Texas versus Oklahoma” conjures up images of a packed Cotton Bowl in October, but the rivalry between the two schools on the softball field has been just as fierce. For every “Colt McCoy versus Sam Bradford,” there has been a “Blaire Luna versus Keilani Ricketts.”
“It doesn’t matter what sport — when you match up the Longhorns and the Sooners, it’s always a rivalry,” head coach Connie Clark said.
In 49 games, the Sooners hold a slim 26-23 edge, and the teams have combined to win 10 regular season conference titles and eight conference tournament titles. With the departure of Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M, the rivalry has had a bigger role in determining the conference champion.
That will likely be the case this season. Oklahoma and Texas have each lost a game in conference play, but the Sooners hold a slight edge on percentage points.
Last year, the rivalry went to a new high as the teams faced each other in the Women’s College World Series for the first time. Texas took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third before Oklahoma came back with six in the bottom of the inning, including three on a throwing error by Kim Bruins, to win 10-2 on its way to the NCAA title.
In all, the Sooners took three of the four games the teams played last year.
“They were extremely tough,” senior shortstop Taylor Thom said.
Like the Cotton Bowl, both softball stadiums are sold out for each game of the series. Marita Hynes Stadium in Norman presents a unique situation, as there are bleachers also beyond the outfield wall, creating a “surround sound” of noise for the players to deal with.
Despite the tough environment and there being seven freshmen on the team, Clark said she enjoys taking this type of team up to Norman.
“You talk a lot about hostile environments, but, until you get into it and feel it, you can’t really get that experience,” Clark said.
Both teams come into this year’s edition of the rivalry riding a wave of momentum. Despite losing star first baseman Lauren Chamberlain for six weeks and having gotten a slow start to the season, the Sooners have gotten off to a hot start to Big 12 play, highlighted by their series win at Baylor last week.
The Longhorns also got off to a slow start, going 20-15 in non-conference play and struggling to score with runners on base. But Texas has scored 82 runs in its last eight games, including 38 in the series against Iowa State. Thom has led the charge, hitting five home runs and 17 RBIs in the last seven games.
Texas is 6-10 in games played in Norman, but, despite that record and the rivalry, senior catcher Mandy Ogle said the Longhorns are focused on just winning another Big 12 series.
“We’re just going to take it as another Big 12 series and not going to focus on our opponent and focus on us,” Ogle said.