Did Texas coach Mike White turn Jocelyn Alo away twice at Oregon? … and other World Series stories
On the eve of the WCWS' best two-of-three championship series, a breakdown and the best tales from long media sessions from the Sooners and Longhorns
OKLAHOMA CITY — There are two or three more days of the Women’s College World Series.
The best two-of-three championship series is bound to crown a champion from the Big 12 Conference, but also one bound for the Southeastern Conference, where Oklahoma and Texas are soon headed.
The two squads have played four times, the Longhorns owning one of the Sooners’ two losses, a 4-2 triumph gained April 16 in Austin, Oklahoma freshman Jordy Bahl taking the loss, allowing eight hits and four runs, three earned, over six innings, and Texas senior Hailey Dolcini notching the win, allowing two hits and two runs over seven.
The two days prior, Oklahoma topped Texas 3-0 and 9-1 in five innings. Only Saturday, the Sooners topped the Longhorns 7-2 in a WCWS winners bracket contest. Dolcini took the loss. Hope Trautwein got the win.
Neither coach, Oklahoma’s Patty Gasso nor Texas’ Mike White, has announced their Game 1 starter, though press box denizens will be shocked if Gasso doesn’t go with Trautwein, but perhaps only mildly surprised if White, given the emergence of Estelle Czech, doesn’t go with Dolcini.
“We’ve been playing really free and I think that’s the concept we’re playing with, that we’re not supposed to be here,” White said. “We play best when we’re relaxed and we’re carefree and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Does familiarity matter?
“I think the pros are that you know them,” Gasso said. “I think the cons are that they know you.”
Beyond that, must we know any more about these teams and what they might do against one another?
Oklahoma knocks the cover off the ball and you’ve got to find a way to hold it to two, three, four or five runs and try to score more.
Texas likes to run and bring pressure, which requires baserunners, and while its pitching staff, between Dolcini, Czech and Sophia Simpson — who shut out Arkansas in the deciding game at the Fayetteville Super Regional but has pitched only 1 2/3 World Series innings — the Longhorns could actually experiment, using the game’s re-entry rule to never let the Sooners see the same pitcher back-to-back. Yet even were White chose that novel approach, could it work against a team that’s scored five or fewer runs in only nine of 60 games?
If you’re breaking the series down, there’s little need to go deeper than that.
Still, the two teams combined to spend almost an hour with media on Tuesday and got into a bunch of stuff interesting stuff, games aside.
• Alo to Oregon?
It would seem that Jocelyn Alo, Sooner slugger, and White, who coached at Oregon prior to coming to Texas before the 2019 season, have two different memories about how close Alo came to playing for him in Eugene.
Perhaps both memories are correct, but reflect two different times, years apart, or perhaps memory’s just a funny thing.
“I was 12 [years old], looking at schools, which is crazy to me … I went to Oregon, Mike White was the coach there, and he offered me at the time, and then I went to Arizona … I don’t remember getting an offer from Arizona. Then I remember, after that I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to make my life-long decision at 13 [years old] and I called Mike and I said I wanted to be a Duck, and the offer wasn’t on the table any more. I don’t know what happened.”
“Probably the worst day of my coaching career … What happened was we were looking for a catcher and Jocelyn wasn’t catching at that time, she had moved from that position. She came in and decommitted from California and said, ‘You know, ‘I want to commit to you.’ I said, ‘Well, we’ve kind of changed our priorities and what we want to do.’ Bad move.”
Did Alo — who met media first — try to commit to Oregon two different times only to be turned away twice? It’s hard to believe White was looking for a 13-year-old catcher at any point.
In Alo’s telling, she committed to Cal after Oregon turned her away. In White’s telling, the turning away came after she gave back her commitment to Cal.
Does it matter? Not really.
Alo: “I re-opened my recruitment and committed to coach Gasso on my 18th birthday.”
White: “Jocelyn found the place that was best for her.”
• Great format, right?
This is the first season the World Series has been played on a new timetable.
Prior to this year, coming through the loser’s bracket demanded a team win four games over two days to reach the championship series. This season, an extra day built into the schedule eliminated the first of the two doubleheader days and another day built into the schedule allowed for the day off before the championship begins.
Gasso wants one more change.
“The last time we played a doubleheader was in March and … you’re playing two games with a 30-minute break to decide who is going to play for a national championship?” she said.
Gasso added that she’d give away the free day before the championship series to not have to turn around and play twice on Monday.
“Maybe eliminating doubleheaders altogether would be a good thing,” White said.
One solution that makes lots of sense, the NCAA will never go for because it's likely to eliminate a session, which means eliminating revenue.
After UCLA beat Oklahoma 7-3 on Monday, rather than the Sooners and Bruins hooking up again, Oklahoma State and Texas could have taken the field, putting hours between the Sooners and Longhorns locking back up and hours between the Cowgirls' and Longhorns' second tussle, too.
But because only the first two games would be guaranteed in that setup, the NCAA could’t count on the night session and would therefore be stuck charging for a single session that might run two games, but could run three or four.
• The maturation of Mike
Three different Longhorns joined White in Tuesday’s media session: Janae Jefferson, who played one season at Texas before White arrived; Dolcini, who transferred into the program prior to this season after four years at Fresno State; and Mary Iakopo, who played for White his final season at Oregon before transferring to Austin to join White at Texas.
Each was asked what it’s been like to play for him and each produced a very different answer.
“My freshman year we were just going out there to have fun, but now with him I feel that’s all about competing and going out there and giving it your all. He just pushes me to my limits and I’m just extremely grateful for him."
“I’ve only been here for six months … but [he] was part of the reason I chose Texas, was to learn from him and all the experience he had at the Women’s College World Series and as a pitcher himself … A lot of the experience he has, he uses for great lessons for us pitchers.
“His communication is so different, it’s evolved in the best was possible. My old teammates, we have a group chat going on, on how he was more … he pushed you in the right way and he was hard on you, but his form of communication these days is more soft-spoken. I think it works best for this generation going forward, and I think that’s really great for our sport in order to form the best forms of communication and relationships.”
So, for Jefferson, White's the hard-charging demanding coach. For Dolcini, he’s her position coach. For Iakopo, he’s the demanding coach who over time has learned how to better communicate with his players and if he knows what’s good for his program will keep heading that direction.
Ah, the wisdom of a player who really knows her coach and can speak freely.
• Patty and Lana
Gasso was asked to describe how she took the Sooners from playing in a city park, sharing the diamond with beer leagues more than 25 years ago, to where they are today.
She mentioned many things, including one player who represented a turning point.
“I needed to go into junior colleges to recruit to get some immediate help right now. That’s what I did,” she said. “Then I thought, 'I’ve got to [get] this kid' … It was Lana Moran, left-handed pitcher out of California. I’m like, ‘I’m going to go for it.’”
If you’ve been covering the Sooners forever, you know the name.
Moran, from San Bernardino, was a third-team All-American in 1998 and though she did not earn those honors again, she was the staff’s leader in 2000 when the Sooners advanced to the World Series for the first time.
She’s a bit forgotten because, though she entered Hall of Fame Stadium 26-2 with a 1.27 earned run average and started the Sooners' first World Series game against Cal, she was lifted in the middle of it in favor of freshman Jennifer Stewart.
Stewart wound up getting the win in a 2-1 victory and went on to throw every remaining pitch of the tournament, getting Oklahoma past Southern Miss, Arizona and UCLA in the title game.
Though she’d not pitch the Sooners to another national championship, Stewart led them to the World Series three more times, thereby becoming the original Sooner pitching legend.
Moran? An historical footnote.
Until Tuesday, when Gasso remembered she was the one who started it all.
The games are great.
The stories are pretty great, too.
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