At World Series, Sooners playing a different game
Now one win from a second straight national championship, it will take an upset of Lake Placid proportions to stop Oklahoma … or to even slow it down
OKLAHOMA CITY — Top of the third, Rylie Boone at first base, Jayda Coleman in the box, Jocelyn Alo, perhaps you’ve heard of her, on deck.
Coleman, who entered Wednesday’s opening night of the WCWS championship series hitting .434 and slugging .684, showed bunt as the received Texas pitcher Logan Hulon’s first pitch.
Next pitch, though she failed to slide her left hand up the bat into classic bunting position, nor fully open her body, she opened a bit and, making contact, did not begin to swing through the ball.
A simple groundout to the pitcher?
Maybe, but for anybody watching close it was a sacrifice. The way Coleman executed it may have handcuffed the official scorer, but it’s what she did, giving herself up to move Boone to second base.
The consequence of her selflessness?
Had Coleman tried moving Boone by reaching base herself, two batters later, the three-run home run Tiare Jennings’ crushed to the back row of Hall of Fame Stadium’s left-center field bleachers might have been a grand slam instead.
It’s the craziest thing.
Though her team has outgrown the quaintness of small ball, literally taking runs off the board when it plays it, Sooner coach Patty Gasso remains unwilling to let such vestiges of the game’s antiquity go.
That and it’s pretty much the only reminder Oklahoma’s playing the same game seven other programs traveled to northeast Oklahoma City a week ago to play.
Perhaps such strategy serves a grander purpose for the Sooner coach.
How else to make a 16-1 beatdown of your program’s Red River rival charming, too?
Oklahoma must still win once more to claim its sixth national championship, its fifth since 2013 and its second straight, but it’s hard to imagine a world in which it won’t, or even one that requires the two games the Sooners have now afforded themselves to get it.
Had it been a basketball game, it would have been the original Dream Team’s 116-48 triumph over Angola 28 years ago in Barcelona. Had it been a fight, it would have been Mike Tyson’s 91-second knockout of Michael Spinks 34 years ago in Atlantic City.
Had it been a horse race, it would have been Secretariat at the ’73 Belmont and had it been in a pool, it would have been the difference between Michael Phelps and … well, me.
“Parity has come,” Gasso said the day before the event began.
For every team but hers.
Alo, who is sometimes compared to Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, has left all diamond comparisons behind.
Wednesday, she hit a two-run home run in the first inning, a double in the second, got drilled in her left thigh by Hulon, Texas’ third pitcher, in the third, then went deep again in the fifth, off Shea O’Leary. In the sixth inning, she walked, making it nine straight plate appearances she's reached base.
After exiting the Sooners’ 7-3 loss to UCLA hitting .494, she’s now hitting .527.
Her two big flies made it a World Series record five since it began, a program-record 34, tying the season mark she set last season and 122 since arriving on the Norman campus, an ever increasing NCAA benchmark since hitting her 96th at Hawaii on March 12.
“When she comes up,” Gasso said. “I expect her to hit a home run.”
Her and everybody else.
Beyond Alo’s, the Sooners pounded out 13 more hits, scoring every inning but the seventh. Though, being the home team, they did not bat in the seventh.
So dominant, the biggest game did not belong to Alo, but the sophomore who hits behind her, Jennings, who went 4 for 5, mashed the third-inning shot and knocked in five. Despite that, the clearest expression of dominance might not have come from Alo, Jennings, nor even Alo and Jennings in tandem, but from the bottom of the order: Taylon Snow, Jana Johns and Boone.
Combined, the trio went 5 for 8, got a home run from Snow, scored five runs and drove in five, six if you count Grace Green’s RBI groundout hitting for Boone in the fourth inning.
Once again, Hope Trautwein did not have to be great in the circle but was pretty close anyway.
Stunned by a double from Bella Dayton and a passed ball that allowed her to reach second base in the top of the first, Trautwein walked three straight Longhorns, yielding Texas a 1-0 edge. The rest of the way, until vacating for Nicole May in the sixth, she allowed one more walk and two more hits, picking up her fourth win of the tournament.
“It’s definitely cool to see what it is that we can do as the stakes get higher and higher,” Alo said.
What it is is stilly.
Silly and amazing.
Amazing and impossible.
Historic, maybe without parallel.
Still, they must win once more.
Chaminade beat Virginia, Buster Douglas knocked out Tyson and a bunch of American collegians beat the Soviets in Lake Placid.
It’s hard to see how coach Mike White’s Longhorns might join that list.
It’s hard to see how Oklahoma could possibly lose its fourth game of the season, let alone a fifth.
But if the drama’s gone, come back for the history.
Game to game, sometimes inning to inning, the Sooners keep making it.
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