With a stinging Women's College World Series semifinal defeat against the Washington Huskies on Sunday, Oklahoma Sooners pitcher Paige Parker’s college softball career came to an end on a disappointing note.
Following OU's NCAA championships in 2016 and 2017, Parker was looking to spearhead her school to a historic third straight title. But after falling to Washington 3-0, the Independence native will now move past the disappointment and look onward to life as a professional softball pitcher.
One of three Sooners drafted in the 2018 National Pro Fastpitch Draft, Parker was selected in the first round, sixth overall, by the USSSA Pride.
“We haven’t won a championship in three years, so we’re hoping Parker can bring that experience,” said Megan Willis, Pride assistant general manager.
The Pride, based out Viera, Fla., have played in the NPF since 2009, winning three Cowles Cup Championships in nine seasons. The most recent of those was in 2014, Parker’s freshman year at Oklahoma.
The Pride began to keep an eye on Parker’s progress in 2014 — when she was a freshman for the Sooners — according to Willis. Having chosen to commit to Oklahoma over the likes of Kansas, Missouri and UCLA, Parker began turning heads in high school.
Parker was the Gatorade Missouri High School Player of the Year in 2010-11 and 2012-13, boasting an ERA of 0.25 her senior year, and finished her time with the Sooners with a record of 23-2.
Since arriving at Oklahoma, Parker garnered four All-America honors, four Big 12 Pitcher of the Year awards and two NCAA championships, and was chosen the most outstanding player of the 2016 Women's College World Series.
Her successful career with the Sooners is littered with historic accomplishments. From a 38 1/3 scoreless-innings streak her junior year, to an ERA of just 0.86 this season, Parker seems destined for success.
"To be honest, right now Paige Parker is the best pitcher in Oklahoma history," said OU coach Patty Gasso. "And that is because she has won not only two national championships, but she has thrown back to — she's done some unbelievable things."
A history of bad knees nearly put Parker’s future in doubt, as she was unsure whether she would continue her career after college. But with the Pride putting faith in her by picking her sixth overall, just five picks behind teammate and number one overall pick Paige Lowary, Parker has made a decision on her future.
“She has confirmed with (Pride head coach) Mike Stith that she will continue playing,” Willis said, noting that the Pride wasn't concerned about her knees.
Parker leaves Norman finishing in the top five in Oklahoma history in career win percentage, strikeouts and strikeout rate, wins, appearances and saves.
“I am just so thankful to have been a part of this program for the past four years. I’ve met lifelong friends,” Parker said following the Sooners' season-ending loss.
“I’ve created relationships with people that will never be broken, and I’ve just had so much fun and I’ve been so blessed to have been coached by Coach Gasso and Coach (Melyssa) Lombardi and JT (Gasso). I’m just so blessed that they took a chance on me and have had confidence in me and believed in me.”