Been a hot minute since the back-of-the-bench player has been called into the game. Happy to check in and chuck up a few ill-advised shots.
Patty Gasso said before the season in an interview we did on The Franchise that she doesn’t really think about how one season affects another. She has learned that, over time, every season has its own independent hurdles that really have nothing to do with the last, so preparing for that is more helpful then anticipating a “championship hangover”.
Well, Gasso has had her hands full this season with storylines to manage. Most of note? Slow starts against bad opponents. Slow starts against Cal State Fullerton, Weber State, Iowa State, and UIC have all raised eyebrows. None of those losses, but all the first game of a weekend against lesser competition.
Sooner Softball, though, didn’t have that issue this weekend. A Top 25 Texas makes motivation easy, plain and simple. I am sure Gasso didn’t think she needed to add a chip to her team, but then Mike White said this...
“They find ways to keep reloading,” White told KVUE’s Tyler Feldman, “I’m not quite sure if all of it’s as, uh, whatever. I won’t say anymore.”
Full video is below
For the first time since falling to its Red River rival in the #WCWS championship series, No. 8 @TexasSoftball (30-5-1, 3-0) will battle No. 1 @OU_Softball (30-1, 3-0) in a three-game series this weekend.— Tyler Feldman (@TylerFeldmanTV) March 29, 2023
"It's going to be more than just a game."#HookEm | @KVUE pic.twitter.com/XO2jva13al
Now why an opposing coach would hint at cheating or at bare minimum “unethical” roster building — not only devaluing Coach Gasso, but also taking away from the accomplishments of the women in the locker room just 24 hours before a three-game road series starts against them — is beyond me. Truthfully, it also might be the dumbest thing I can imagine doing.
So then Gasso now had a different “problem” — addressing this comment and making sure the focus remained where it should be.
Boy did she.
The Sooners gave up a run in the first inning to the Longhorns on Friday in front of 9,000 at Hall of Fame Stadium, but that was the only sign from Texas for the opening game. OU then rallied for eight unanswered runs, including a massive three-run shot in the second inning from Tiare Jennings, who finished the day with four RBIs. Really a great game from Jordy Bahl, who moved to 9-1 on the season and added six strikeouts to her season-long ledger.
The Sooners walked into Saturday following a dominant win the night before, and would this time play at their official home field. This day, however, gave Oklahoma their biggest test of the weekend. Held scoreless through four innings and trailing by two runs, the Sooners badly needed a spark. It came in the form of a hot shot to 2nd courtesy of Haley Lee.
On the board— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) April 1, 2023
END 5 | OU 1, UT 2 | ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/WDoxbWOl2t
Oklahoma, however, took a step back in the top of the sixth via a solo shot from Texas’ Martinez. Following a squandered opportunity in the bottom half, the pressure was on.
But was there any real doubt?
In the bottom of the 7th, Rylie Boone singled to set up a Jayda Coleman homer to left field. Suddenly, an OU offense who had been struggling all day was alive and well. A few at-bats later, a clutch Kenzie Hansen single won the series for the Sooners.
OU started Sunday with Nicole May in the circle to try to close out the series. She went five innings with eight strikeouts to help lift the Sooners to a mercy-ruled win. The Sooners only had to go six innings to invoke the run rule card and send Coach White home with nothing more than a handful of “what ifs”. Tiare Jennings finished with four hits on all of her at bats with a matching four RBIs. Oklahoma’s offense was rolling against most of the Longhorns pitching staff but had eight hits on Gutierrez. The Sooners would win the game, 10-2, sweeping the Texas Longhorns for the weekend and remain unbeaten in Big 12 play.
All in all, the most “Oklahoma Softball” game of the bunch.
Gasso said no season is like any other. I tend to agree with her — the challenges are always different from what you expect. I wasn’t expecting Texas to be making (or inferring) accusations just hours before a series, giving Oklahoma additional bulletin-board material. But I am just a normal man who started truly enjoying softball just a handful of years ago. Coach White has been doing it much longer.
The Sooners are set to start a three-game series in Norman against Texas Tech this evening. Even at 33-1 on the year, they’re still finding a few chips on their shoulders every so often. I doubt this weekend will match the last, but look for this group to use last week’s emotional ride to build momentum for the stretch run of Big 12 play.