Behind the sluggers, Sooners' Hope Trautwein pitching like a national champion
Sooners may not need great work in the circle but they're getting it from the fifth-year transfer from North Texas
OKLAHOMA CITY — For all the ink spilled, sound collected and thoughts provoked by the rock star that is Oklahoma freshman pitcher Jordy Bahl, it’s time to understand the Sooners will indeed be bringing a dominant starting pitcher into their third straight Women’s College World Series championship series and her name is … well, it’s Hope Trautwein.
Coach Patty Gasso’s team has so much going for it, it’s absurd.
Only Saturday, Texas coach Mike White called the Sooner lineup a murderer’s row and on Monday Oklahoma proved it again, enduring a 7-3 loss to UCLA only to turn around and pummel the Bruins 15-0 as though the day’s opener had not even happened.
Of course, Jocelyn Alo, the greatest hitter the game’s ever seen, was right in the middle of it, going deep twice, driving in seven and raising her batting average to an impossible .509.
Yet, because Alo did what she did and others did what they did — Jayda Coleman lashed three hits, Tiare Jennings went deep and drove in three, Rylie Boone collected two hits and drove in two — it was again easy to forget about Trautwein, just as it’s been sort of easy to forget about her pretty much the whole season.
It was easy to forget that Gasso had saved Trautwein for just such an eventuality, the Sooners’ first elimination game since last season’s championship series, throwing Nicole May in the opener and bringing Bahl, pitching through a right-forearm injury, in relief.
It was easy, too, to dismiss Trautwein’s performance because none of it came under pressure.
Before she threw her first pitch, she’d been staked to a 3-0 lead and before she threw her first pitch of the second inning that lead had doubled.
It was easy to forget, in the half hour between games, the big question was whether Trautwein might be up to it. Though her earned run average has been microscopic all season, the common belief that Bahl’s the staff’s ace has endured.
The freshman from Papillion, Nebraska, has charisma to burn, has drawn bigger starts, particularly in the non-conference portion of the schedule — UCLA, Tennessee, Minnesota, Cal, Kentucky, Wichita State — and despite throwing just five innings since May 6, has still thrown 16 1/3 more than Trautwein.
But here’s the thing.
Flush all that.
Seeing Trautwein, the fifth-year transfer from North Texas, as second to anybody, in the country or on her own team, needs to end.
Perhaps in the background, but she’s been doing it all season and she did it again on Monday, handcuffing the Bruins, tossing a two-hit shutout, striking out six and walking nobody.
No, she didn’t have to be that sharp, but it’s not her fault the Sooner lineup is crushingly historic.
Also, Oklahoma has still not won a national championship without a pitcher ultimately pulling it through and, quietly, Trautwein has become a pitcher who appears entirely capable of doing that, of doing what a a select few of her predecessors — Jennifer Stewart, Keilani Ricketts, Paige Parker, Giselle Juarez — have done.
“I’ve definitely been getting more used to the environment,” she said after lowering her earned run average to 0.56. “There’s a lot of distractions going on, and I really have locked into my routine as I have thrown more innings.”
Trautwein’s only gotten better since the World Series began.
She threw two 4 2/3 innings against Northwestern, allowing two runs. She tossed seven complete against Texas and allowed two more. Then came Monday afternoon. Two hits and no runs.
Gasso probably didn’t want the Sooners to have to play the Bruins twice, but having done it and come through it she believes her team is better for it.
“To see Hope in that environment,” she said. “To see Jordy and what she can do for us.”
Bahl tossed 4 1/3 innings in relief of May and held the Bruins down until allowing a two-run opposite field home run to Maya Brady in the seventh.
Perhaps she’ll be ready to put out fires beginning Wednesday. Still, make no mistake, if Oklahoma’s to win another national championship, it’s going to do it on the arm of Trautwein, who may not be as exciting as Bahl, nor stalk the circle like Bahl, but whose story is actually pretty great, too.
At North Texas, her season-by-season earned run averages were 2.48, 2.19, 1.64 and 1.46 for the Conference USA program. And one season later, she’s even better in the Big 12?
She did not allow even one earned run over a 15-game stretch from Feb. 27 to May 6, Utah to Oklahoma State. She eventually exited the Big 12 tournament with a 0.31 earned run average and Wednesday she’s bound to get another start against the Longhorns and see what she can do about getting that figure back down below half a run.
She doing it every which way.
In the Sooners’ only tight tight postseason victory, Trautwein beat Texas A&M 3-2 and struck out one. Saturday, she only struck out one Longhorn. Monday, it was six Bruins. Under the radar, she’s only getting stronger.
No, she may not need to be great.
The Sooners may just slug their way to another crown. But if she has to be, there’s now every reason to believe she can be.
Hope Trautwein may not be a star, but two more wins from history, she’s sure as heck pitching like one.
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UCLA 7, Oklahoma 3
Oklahoma 15, UCLA 0
Texas 5, Oklahoma State 0
Texas 6, Oklahoma State 5
Oklahoma vs. Texas
Game 1, TBA (ESPN)
Game 2, TBA (ESPN2)
Game 3, if necessary, TBA (ESPN)