The Oklahoma Regional will be held in Norman beginning on Friday. The four-team, three-day event features Tulsa (39-15, 15-3 American) facing Arkansas (31-22, 7-18 SEC) at 11:30 a.m. Friday morning on SEC Network, before Oklahoma takes on North Dakota State (28-31, 11-7 Summit League) at 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon on ESPN3. Coincidentally, these four teams all met in Norman for the 2009 Regional, which was won by North Dakota State.
The defending national champion Oklahoma softball team (50-8, 17-1 Big 12) has earned the No. 10 overall seed in the 2017 NCAA Division I Softball Championship and will host. Winner of six straight Big 12 championships, Oklahoma has been a national seed for each of the past 11 seasons and will host a regional for the seventh year in a row. Oklahoma, which swept the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles this year and has won 27 of its past 28 games, owns a 2-1 all-time record against North Dakota State, outscoring the Bison 16-3. Oklahoma has made the NCAA tournament in every year of head coach Patty Gasso’s 23 seasons at the helm of the program and in 24 straight seasons overall. Last season, Oklahoma became the third program ever to win more than two national titles. Oklahoma heads into the Regional with a 50-8 overall record. The OU pitching duo of Paige Parker and Paige Lowary have been consistent all season and the offense led by junior Nicole Pendley and sophomores Sydney Romero and Caleigh Clifton and freshman Nicole Mendes.
Best Shot at Upset
Arkansas has the best shot at the upset in this region. In her second season at the helm of the program, head coach Courtney Deifel has orchestrated a 14-win improvement over last year’s record which marks the best turnaround among Power 5 teams entering the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas’ seven wins in SEC play equal the program’s combined total over the previous three years. The Razorbacks enter the NCAA Tournament with an SEC-leading 57 home runs.
Players to Watch
The Arkansas offense, led by power hitter’s Nicole Schroeder and Tori Cooper, could give the Sooner pitching duo a run for their money. Schroeder set the single-season home run record of 16, and Cooper is not far behind with 10.
Oklahoma should be favored to advance out of the region. The Sooners have a long history of successful postseason play. They seem to peak during the season at the right time every year. OU’s pitching is more dominant than any of the offenses they will face in this round.