This year’s college softball season has been quite the ride for the Oklahoma Sooners, and now it’s nearing one of two familiar ends. Over the next handful of days, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament will either return to Norman as it did last year — disappointed and defeated — or this OU program will come away with the game’s greatest achievement for the fifth time in school history. Welcome back to Oklahoma City. This is the 2019 Women’s College World Series.
After falling short of reaching the WCWS final in 2018, this group of Sooners has been on a mission to return to this stage and complete the run towards another national championship.
“It’s not going to be easy. Everyone is gunning to win the national championship.”— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) May 30, 2019
Last year, the Sooners came just short. This year, they’re back with another chance to battle. #ChampionshipMindset pic.twitter.com/mkyVzZq28Z
On Wednesday, Patty Gasso was joined by the coaches of the other teams from Oklahoma’s side of the WCWS bracket for a press conference. Those coaches are Oklahoma State’s Kenny Gajewski, Alabama’s Patrick Murphy and Florida’s Tim Walton.
- As it was addressed in the presser, OSU’s Gajewski and UF’s Walton were baseball teammates at OU during the Sooners’ 1994 national championship winning season. Their connection remained close as the years passed. Walton became an assistant on Gasso’s softball staff, while Gajewski was Oklahoma’s lead groundskeeper. Eventually, after Walton took the job in Gainesville, Gajewski would join him there before moving to Stillwater in ‘16.
- Another coaching connection within this group involves OU pitching coach Jennifer Rocha, who as a player pitched for a few of the early Gasso teams at Oklahoma before moving to Florida as an assistant under Walton for 13 seasons. Now she’s back in Norman and guiding the top pitching staff in the nation.
- Murphy’s coaching career with the Crimson Tide is almost as long as Gasso’s is with the Sooners. He began as an assistant in Tuscaloosa in 1996 before being promoted to head coach in 1999.
- Out of these four coaches, Gasso has the most experience in the WCWS with 13 appearances and four titles. Alabama’s Murphy is next with 12 appearances and one championship. This is Walton’s 10th time in OKC with the Gators, where he’s won it all twice. Finally, for OSU’s Gajewski, this is the first time he’s brought his Cowgirls to this stage.
The Oklahoma Sooners’ first game at the 2019 WCWS comes against a familiar postseason foe — the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Oklahoma Sooners (54-3, 18-0 Big 12) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (57-8, 18-6 SEC): Thursday, May 30 at 8:30 p.m. CT (USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium — Oklahoma City, Okla.)
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: KEBC 1560 AM, 107.7 FM
Oklahoma vs. Alabama Storylines
- The Sooners and the Crimson Tide have a storied history of squaring off in the NCAA Tournament. This will be the 10th meeting in postseason play between the two programs, and the seventh to come in OKC. Last time, Oklahoma got the best of Alabama in extra innings with a walk-off three-run homer from then-freshman Shay Knighten in the 2016 WCWS. Overall, Patrick Murphy’s program leads the all-time postseason series versus Patty Gasso’s, 5-4.
- Gasso on Alabama: “Coach Murphy always has his team ready to play. They always have fire. They’re fearless. They’re well-balanced. They’ve got speed. They’ve got power. They’ve got pitching. But they’re a team that always comes out ready to play. We know we’ve got to be at our best when we face a team like Alabama.”
- Speaking of Murphy’s team, three Crimson Tide players earned Second Team All-America honors in freshman pitcher Montana Fouts, sophomore outfielder Kaylee Tow and junior utility player Bailey Hemphill.
- Murphy on Oklahoma: “I think this year (Gasso) seems to have athletes in every position, a top-notch looking athlete at every position. She’s got a lot more pop I think than normal, up and down the lineup.”
- Those players include but are not limited to junior pitcher Giselle ‘G’ Juarez, senior second baseman Caleigh Clifton, senior third baseman Sydney Romero, senior outfielder Fale Aviu, sophomore utility player Jocelyn Alo and freshman utility player Grace Green. In total, this Oklahoma team set a new program record with six players named NCFA D-I All-Americans.
The winner of Oklahoma’s matchup with Alabama will face the winner between Florida and Oklahoma State at 8:30 p.m. CT Friday night, while the losing teams from each contest will go head-to-head in an elimination game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
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