The national champion Oklahoma softball coaches have been voted as the 2016 NFCA Division I National Coaching Staff of the Year, the National Fastpitch Association announced Wednesday.
Head coach Patty Gasso, associate head coach Melyssa Lombardi, assistant coach J.T. Gasso, volunteer assistant coach Andrea Gasso and director of operations Jackie Livingston took home the honor after guiding the Sooners to a 57-8 record and the third national championship in program history.
Gasso’s staff, which included Lombardi, was also tabbed the nation’s best in 2000 and 2013 after the Sooners won their first two national titles. OU has been recognized as the Division I Central Region Coaching Staff of the Year for each of the last five seasons.
Oklahoma was at its best when it mattered most, winning its final 22 games of the regular season and its first nine in the postseason for a school record 31-game winning streak. Among those victories were wins over No. 14 national seed Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 6 Alabama, No. 2 Michigan and No. 10 LSU.
Facing No. 4 Auburn in the Championship Series, OU claimed game one with a 3-2 victory as freshman Sydney Romero hit a three-run homer and sophomore Paige Parker held Auburn scoreless for six innings in a complete-game win. The Tigers rallied for an 11-7, extra-inning win in game two to force a decisive game three. The Sooners scored twice in the first inning and Parker gave up one run on five hits for her 38th win of the season in a 2-1 victory as Oklahoma became just the third team ever to win three national titles.
The Sooners started the season ranked No. 9 in the NFCA preseason poll and were as low as No. 14 as late as Week 9. The Sooners kept climbing though and entered the postseason as No. 3 before unanimously being ranked No. 1 in the final poll.
For the fourth time in the last five seasons Oklahoma had at least three All-Americans with Parker on the first team and second-teamers Erin Miller and Shay Knighten. OU tied a school record with eight All-Region honorees for the third straight season.
Winners of the Big 12 for the fifth straight year, Oklahoma swept every major conference award, including Player of the Year (Miller), Pitcher of the Year (Parker), Freshman of the Year (Knighten), Coach of the Year (Gasso) and Defensive Player of the Year (Kelsey Arnold). The Sooners put three players on the All-Big 12 First Team, four on the All-Big 12 Second Team and four on the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.
The team ranked second in the country in both batting average (.351) and fielding percentage (..983) while ranking fourth in winning percentage (.877), seventh in slugging (.538) and 10th in on-base percentage (.427). The batting average was second in both OU and Big 12 history, while the fielding percentage was a school and conference record and the fifth best in NCAA annals.
Parker led the nation in victories, matching the school record set by teammate Kelsey Stevens during the 2014 season. Parker also ranked second nationally in shutouts (14), 10th in strikeouts (269) and 21st in earned run average (1.64).
A 2012 NFCA Hall of Fame inductee, Gasso just completed her 22nd season at the helm of the OU program. She owns a career collegiate coaching record of 1246-372-3 (.770) with an overall mark of 1085-313-2 (.776) at the University of Oklahoma. She ranks seventh among active coaches (min. 5 years) and ninth all-time (min. 10 years) in winning percentage, while her win total is 14th all-time and ninth among active coaches.
Gasso has won more Big 12 games (290-84) than any coach in the league's history. Oklahoma has claimed nine Big 12 regular season and four championship titles under her direction, including the 2016 crown after a program-best 17-1 mark in league play.