When Paige Parker helped the University of Oklahoma win the Women’s College World Series in 2016, she was exhausted after it was all over.
The Truman High School graduate had started every game in the circle for the Oklahoma Sooners in the postseason that season except Game 2 of the championship series. That workload equated to 54 innings and 955 pitches thrown in 18 days between May 20 and June 6.
She even admitted that she was pitching at about 50 percent in Game 1 against Auburn.
This year was a little different.
She got sit out in two games and pitched less than two innings in a pair of contests in the postseason. Parker didn’t have the go the distance in the majority of her starts and had plenty of help from other members of the pitching staff.
University of Missouri transfer Paige Lowary and freshman Mariah Lopez allowed Parker to remain fresh throughout the season as both of them ate innings.
Although Oklahoma didn’t depend on Parker near as much last year, the result was the same. Parker and the Sooners started the season slow at 2-2 before going on a 59-7 tear. Oklahoma repeated as Women’s College World Series champions after knocking off top-ranked Florida in two games last week.
It was an achievement that not many players can lay claim to. Now, Parker can say she has two championship rings (three if you count her Missouri Class 4 state title at Truman High School).
“I think last year’s journey was a just a little bit different than this year,” Parker said. “This year we really had some ups and downs and had to come together. I am just really proud of that more than anything. We had to overcome adversity because we didn’t start the season the way we wanted to.
“Florida is a fantastic team and we just found ways to win. Both of these championships were special in their own unique ways.”
Parker appeared in 44 of 70 games and started just 31 of them. That’s because she had pitchers like Lowary, Lopez and Melanie Olmos. Parker, who was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and was a second-team All-American, was 26-5 with a career-best 1.43 ERA, a .179 batting average against, six shutouts and 262 strikeouts.
“The pitching staff really came together and we had each other’s backs, especially in the postseason” Parker said. “The big difference from last year is how strong our pitching staff is.
“It was great to get a little more rest this season,” she added. “I felt a lot better going into the postseason this year than last year. Our pitching staff really grew and each pitcher stepped up in different ways. It was really cool to see.”
Parker built a special bond with Lowary, who picked up the save in the championship, clinching win against the Gators. After the championship win, Lowary tweeted:
“I am forever thankful for the bond I have with this girl. Thank you for welcoming me into this family & you deserve the world Paige Parker!!”
“She went through a lot at Missouri,” Parker said. “And just to see her transformation this year is something that I will never forget. We’re very similar and we like a lot of the same things. I wanted her to have the best experience possible here. We got really close and created a special bond with each other.”
And Parker’s family was all there to see the championship celebration unfold – her father, mother, grandmother and sister. Afterward, the team went to Toby Keith Restaurant in downtown Oklahoma City.
“It’s something special and a lot of fun,” Parker said. “And a few of our fans get to join us.”
Parker has one more year left with Oklahoma and will have an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done since 1990, win a third straight championship.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about that a whole lot,” Parker said. “We are just going to come out and work hard and compete.”