Aggies fold, because that's what Sooners made them do
That thing about the best always getting everybody's best shot? Forget about it, because for the very best, the opposite is more frequently true
One of the benefits of being best?
Frequently, proving it isn’t required.
That was Oklahoma Sunday afternoon at the NCAA’s Norman Regional, where the Sooners prevailed 20-0 over Texas A&M as though somebody missed an extra point, only it took place at Marita Hynes Field, a softball diamond, rather than Owen Field.
You know that thing about the best always having a target on their back, never getting a night off because they get everybody’s best shot?
It’s a go-to adage whenever a top-ranked squad finds itself in a dogfight.
It’s also not true.
What being best often means is your opponent lying down for you, because while the Sooners were terrific on Sunday, they were not 20-0 terrific.
They had help.
They scored nine runs in the first inning but they did it on just five hits because Aggie starter Makinzy Herzog walked the first batter she faced and plunked the third batter she faced … and because A&M second baseman Rylen Wiggins and right fielder Morgan Smith played Alyssa Brito’s popup to short-right field into a two-base error … and just to prove their team was folding, catcher Katie Dack and third baseman Trinity Cannon both turned in first-inning fielding errors, too.
The Aggies were spent.
The rest of it was not dissimilar.
By the time the it ended, A&M’s error count reached four, Aggie pitchers combined to walk four Sooners and plunk five more.
While OU scored nine runs on five hits in the first inning, it scored 11 on just seven over the next four.
None of it lessens the Sooners’ success.
Indeed, the opposite is true, because the best don’t just win.
They crush souls, too.
So difficult to face, so taxing to consider, so seemingly impossible to hold down, surrender becomes inviting.
Nobody wanted to say it, but it’s what happened.
Jo Evans, who’s coached the Aggie program since 1997, taking it to the World Series three times, thought “We never gave ourselves a chance” and “The game sped up on us.”
Yes, because that’s what happens against a team like OU.
There was a moment the day before, Saturday, in the Sooners’ 3-2 victory over the Aggies that kind of explained it, too.
Third inning, Jocelyn Alo led off with a walk and Tiare Jennings followed with a single. Somehow, Herzog got out of it unscathed, getting Grace Lyons to pop out to the catcher, Brito to pop out to the shortstop and Lynnsie Elam to go down swinging.
That is, after walking a .500 hitter (Alo)* and allowing a single to a .390 hitter (Jennings), Herzog popped up a .411 hitter (Lyons), a .370 hitter (Brito) and struck out a .305 hitter (Elam) who slugs .762.
Try doing that more than once.
* That’s right, after going 3 for 3 on Sunday, the great Jocelyn Alo is hitting .500. She finished with a home run and two singles, yet if she’d gotten the correct call, it would have been two home runs and one single. Alas, the left-field foul pole does not extend 50 feet into the air, what would have been required for the umpires to see what the rest of the stadium saw, that Alo’s shot remained fair when it carried the fence, perhaps 100 feet before it fell to earth.
Remember Amber Flores’ three-home run game at the Seattle Super Regional in 2010, and then the fourth home run they should have given her, yet called foul? It was just like that one, only in daylight.
FAlo has recorded 70 hits in 140 at bats this season, 27 of them home runs and another 11 doubles. She’s walked 48 times, establishing a .640 on-base percentage and is slugging 1.157.
While nearly impossible to do what Herzog did in the third inning the day before, it’s nearly as hard to just keep going, to not give in and continue throwing strikes knowing where those balls might land.
It is easier to give in, to walk and plunk batters trying to be too perfect, leaving no choice but to throw far more hittable pitches, only now with Sooners on the bases.
That’s what A&M did on Sunday.
The Aggies had worked so hard to keep it together on Saturday, they were drained, had nothing left, their bodies giving into their metaphysical strain.
“They’ve been here plenty of times. They’re not afraid of us,” Sooner coach Patty Gasso said. “But when we put up nine from the start, it’s kind of tough to know what to do next … It’s hard to dig out of that.”
All true, but if A&M had required every Sooner to hit her way on, fewer runs than hits would have been allowed rather than the other way around.
But the Aggies couldn’t do it.
They would have if they could have, but they couldn’t so they didn’t, and they’re not the first team to fold like that against the Sooners.
Here’s the boxscore.
Here’s OU’s otherworldly stats.
And still, they’re just one measure of the Sooners’ prowess. What they do to their opponents between the ears, the stress induced paralysis, is a whole other thing.
It’s rare air and they’ve earned it.
Thanks for reading. Stick with us for the rest of the softball season, while we cover the Sooners and beyond until a national champion is crowned. Only your e-mail is required.