Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. While you’re probably looking forward to Game 4 of the NBA Finals tonight, don’t forget that the UEFA men’s Champions League final is tomorrow afternoon.
In today’s SI:AM:
If you're reading this on SI.com, you can sign up to get this free newsletter in your inbox each weekday at SI.com/newsletters.
53 in a row
No team in all of North American sports has been as dominant over the past three years as the Oklahoma softball program.
The Sooners beat Florida State, 3–1, in the second game of the Women’s College World Series final to secure their third straight national championship and put a bow on a 61–1 season. It was their 53rd straight win, extending their record-long winning streak.
Oklahoma’s only loss this season came by one run on the road against Baylor on Feb. 19. Most other teams barely put up a fight against the Sooners. They played only five other one-run games all year long. Even against quality opponents, Oklahoma rolled. All three of its NCAA tournament regional games were shortened by the run rule.
Florida State had a great season, too, going 58–11 and winning the ACC championship. And after dropping the first game of the championship series against Oklahoma, 5–0, on Wednesday, the Seminoles made all the right plays early in last night’s do-or-die game.
Oklahoma loaded the bases to start the top of the third inning on a walk and two singles, but FSU kept the Sooners scoreless by getting two forceouts at home. Kaley Mudge made a nice running catch in left to record the final out of the inning and maintain the 0–0 tie.
One play shifted the momentum of the game in the bottom of the third, though. With two on and one out, Florida State’s Kalei Harding hit a long fly ball to deep center, but Oklahoma star Jayda Coleman leapt to bring it back from over the wall. In a game where runs were at a premium, Coleman single-handedly kept three off the board.
FSU did score in the fourth on a solo homer by Mack Leonard, but it was the only run the Seminoles would score all night. Back-to-back homers by Cydney Sanders and Grace Lyons to lead off the fifth gave Oklahoma the lead. The Sooners scored one more in the sixth, and that was that. The Seminoles were retired in order in each of the last three innings.
The win marked the end of another absurdly dominant season for the Sooners. They have won the last three NCAA championships and six of the last 10. Their cumulative record since the start of the 2021 season is 176–8. That’s a .957 winning percentage. Their 53-game winning streak is the longest in the history of the sport, six games longer than Arizona’s 47-game streak in 1996 and ’97. They also hold the next three longest streaks in NCAA history—41, 40 and 40 games, all since 2019.
Of the Sooners’ 61 wins this season, 35 were shutouts. They had three pitchers who ranked in the top eight in the nation in ERA: Nicole May (0.91), Jordyn Bahl (0.92) and Alex Storako (1.12). (Stanford freshman NiJaree Canady led the nation with a preposterous 0.57 ERA.) And when OU pitchers did give up runs, they got more than enough run support. The Sooners averaged 8.16 runs per game on offense, more than a run better than any other team in the country. Their team batting average was .367, 31 points better than the next highest team.
There aren’t many more challenges for Oklahoma to face. It isn’t as though the Sooners are beating up on subpar competition. They had the third-toughest strength of schedule in the nation this season, according to D1Softball.com. They’re simply that much better than everyone else. The only question is how long it can last for Patty Gasso and her program.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- The Panthers got on the board in the Stanley Cup Final with a come-from-behind 3–2 win in overtime.
- The behind-the-scenes power broker of the PGA Tour–LIV Golf deal tells Michael Rosenberg how it came to be and says complaints that Saudi Arabia bought the PGA Tour are “laughable.”
- Conor Orr lists the 10 best landing spots for Dalvin Cook.
- Orr also writes about Isaiah Rodgers’s betting, which involved the Colts cornerback allegedly funneling hundreds of bets through an account without his name on it.
- Rohan Nadkarni examines Jamal Murray’s rise to stardom.
- The key to Denver’s Finals run, in some ways, has been the franchise’s ability to draft and develop its roster, Chris Herring writes.
- The Big Ten released its 2024 football matchups, which reveal how logistically complicated adding USC and UCLA will be, Pat Forde writes.
- Marcus Krum analyzes five things that will end up deciding the Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan.
- Kyle Wood gives out picks and player props for tonight’s Game 4 between the Nuggets and Heat.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. José Ramírez’s three-homer night.
4. Ozzie Albies’s walk-off homer to wrap up the Braves’ sweep against the Mets.
3. Matthew Tkachuk’s game-tying goal with the Panthers’ net empty in the final minutes of regulation to force overtime.
2. Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime winner to prevent Florida from going down 0–3 in the series.
1. This circus catch by Red Sox prospect Rio Gomez (the son of late ESPN baseball reporter Pedro Gomez).
Think back to a time long, long ago, when the world of men’s professional golf wasn’t driven by a will-they-won’t-they relationship between the PGA Tour and the financial wing of the Saudi Arabian government. It was a simpler time, a time when four touring professionals hopped on YouTube to drop an absolute banger of a music video. Released 12 years ago this weekend, the Golf Boys made waves with the official video for their song “Oh Oh Oh.” Who were the members of golf’s (in)famous boy band?
Yesterday’s SIQ: On June 8, 1989, the Pirates took a 10–0 lead in the first inning against the Phillies in Philadelphia, prompting Pittsburgh announcer Jim Rooker to declare he’d perform what outlandish stunt if the Pirates lost?
- Eat his hat
- Walk home to Pittsburgh
- Swim in Pittsburgh’s three rivers
- Jump out of a plane
Answer: walk home to Pittsburgh. True to his word, Rooker really did walk home from Philly after the end of the season. It took him 13 days to walk 337 miles, and he raised an estimated $100,000 for charity in the process.
Rooker made his declaration after the Pirates, who hadn’t won a game in more than a week, jumped out to a 10–0 lead in the top of the first inning of a game against the Phillies at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia on June 8. Pittsburgh had lost seven straight games (plus a game that was officially declared a tie after it began to rain with the score 3–3 in the eighth). Philadelphia starter Larry McWilliams allowed six runs while recording only a single out, and the Pirates tacked on another four off Steve Ontiveros before the inning finally ended.
“If we don’t win this one, I don’t think I’d want to be on that plane ride home,” Rooker, a former Pirates pitcher who was working as the color commentator for the radio broadcast, said on air. “Matter of fact, if we don’t win, I’ll walk back to Pittsburgh.”
Then the Phillies started to slowly chip away at the deficit. Light-hitting second baseman Steve Jeltz, who had five homers in his entire eight-year MLB career, hit two that day as Philadelphia came away with a 15–11 victory.
The next day, Rooker’s radio station was inundated with calls asking whether he’d actually be walking home. Rooker agreed to follow through, but only if the stunt would raise money for charity. All proceeds went to the foundation of former Pirates announcer Bob Prince (who had died four years earlier) and Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.
Rooker and Pittsburgh businessman Carl Dozzi did the walk together, walking between 24 and 30 miles per day. It was more difficult than either of them could have imagined.
“Picture you[r]self getting out of bed and stepping on the floor and it feels like a bed of nails,” Rooker recalled in a 2014 interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We didn't have a clue what we were getting into, and by then it was too late. It beat you down physically and mentally.”