Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
A Patty Gasso story (and a team-by-team Norman Regional preview, too)
When the Sooner softball coach began hosting regionals, she was coaching on a beer league diamond in a city park with no way to charge for attendance
When Oklahoma takes the field against Prairie View A&M on Friday it will mark the beginning of the Sooners’ chase for a sixth national championship, it’s second straight and its fifth in 10 years.
It’s heady, heady stuff.
Particularly so when thrown against the program and the facilities Gasso inherited prior to the 1995 season, taking over for Jim Beitia, who spent exactly one year at the helm after taking over for Michelle Thomas-Grost, who took over for the legendary Marita Hynes* prior to the 1985 season.
* Honestly, Hynes deserves a statue in front of the about-to-be-built Love’s Field, the Sooners’ planned new softball digs. After becoming an administrator, she hired Patty Gasso and a short time after that Sherri Coale. All that and she’s a fabulous person, who helped brings women’s collegiate athletics from the dark ages to what you see now.
If they want a statue of Gasso, too, terrific, she’s earned it, and still OU can’t honor Hynes enough
It’s not like Gasso took over a struggling program. In his one season, Beitia went 58-15, a record Gasso would not quite equal nor better until 2000, when the program claimed its first WCWS trip and national championship, finishing 66-8, back when you could play a million games.
It was, though, a long, long time ago, chronologically and in the imagination of what women’s sports might be or become at OU and everywhere else.
Gasso recalls those days.
Specifically, speaking to media earlier in the week, she remembered the first time her program hosted an NCAA regional.
It was May of ’97.
The Sooners got to host … at Reaves Park.
The OU Softball Complex had not yet been built.
So, on the same diamonds men and women played beer league softball across Jenkins Avenue from campus, the Sooners were trying to win their way to Hall of Fame Stadium.
“It was at Reaves Park and the dugout was so small that the entire team can’t fit in this dugout, so they’re sitting in the first bleacher of the grand … they’re not even grandstands … of the wooden benches out there,” Gasso said.
“To me, I’m more concerned not with how many fans are there, but how do I fit everyone in the dugout … People can come in anywhere they want, so they can’t charge. Yeah, it was quite different. I’m in a city park, hosting a regional. So we have grown with the times to say the least.”
That story in the books, here’s a look at the four teams vying to reach the NCAA’s super regional round through the Norman Regional.
Coach: Patty Gasso
Record: 49-2, 17-1 Big 12
Team batting average: 367
Team on-base percentage: .474
Team slugging percentage: .727
Team earned run average: 0.80
Hitters to watch: Jocelyn Alo .481/.622/1.128 25 HRs, 62 RBIs; Grace Lyons .415/.494/.873, 18 HRs, 53 RBIs; Tiare Jennings .379/.503/.883 22 HRs, 68 RBIs; Alyssa Brito .370/.472/.810, 13 HRs, 38 RBIs
Pitchers to watch: Hope Trautwein 16-1, 91 1/3 IP, 135 SO, 32 BB, 0.31 ERA; Nicole May 12-0, 69 2/3 IP, 76 SO, 24 BB, 1.11 ERA
Coach: Jo Evans
Record: 29-26, 6-18 SEC
Team batting average: .280
Team on-base percentage: .388
Team slugging percentage:.475
Team earned run average: 3.59
Hitters to watch: Lee Haley .410/.553/.769 14 HRs, 41 RBIs; Katie Dack .299/.426/.710, 12 HRs, 37 RBIs; Trinity Cannon .304/.439/.527, 8 HRs, 41 RBIs
Pitchers to watch: Emily Kennedy 11-11, 128 2/3 IP, 103 SO, 62 BB, 2.77 ERA; Makinzy Herzog 9-7, 99 IP, 115 SO, 58 BB, 2.47 ERA
Coach: Piper Ritter
Record: 26-24-1, 11-12 Big 10
Team batting average: 281
Team on-base percentage: .387
Team slugging percentage: .482
Team earned run average: 4.49
Hitters to watch: Natalie DenHartog .340/.426/.728 18 HRs, 36 RBIs; Chloe Evans .329/.433/.617, 10 HRs, 44 RBIs; Lauren Espalin .349/.450/.539, 6 HRs, 24 RBIs
Pitchers to watch: Autumn Pease 11-14, 151 2/3 IP, 150 SO, 55 BB, 4.15 ERA; Emily Leavitt 14-9, 158 2/3 IP, 121 SO, 55 BB, 4.59 ERA
Prairie View A&M
Coach: Vernon Bland
Record: 20-28, 16-8 SWAC
Team batting average: .272
Team on-base percentage: .368
Team slugging percentage: .408
Team earned run average: 7.29
Hitters to watch: Viviana Figueroa .447/.517/.667 5HRs, 38 RBIs; Jaylyn Davis .317/.424/.619 10 HRs, 34 RBIs
Pitchers to watch: Cailin Massey 11-10, 145 IP, 98 K, 49 BB, 4.90 ERA
Norman Regional schedule
Game 1: Texas A&M vs. Minnesota, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: Oklahoma vs. Prairie View, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, TBA
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, TBA
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, TBA
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, TBA
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, if necessary
In case you missed it
Sooner dominance hardly fair, April 9