Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Does anybody really want to beat the Sooners
Yet again, Oklahoma's opponent happy to try to beat them tomorrow, not today
OKLAHOMA CITY — Does anybody really want to beat Oklahoma in this Women’s College World Series or is strategizing to maybe beat the Sooners tomorrow or the next day the best any coach can do?
Yes, here we are again.
Because that was the question late Wednesday night inside Hall of Fame Stadium where Florida State coach Lonni Alameda twice had the chance to put her best pitcher in the game before her team fell behind only to forfeit both opportunities.
Had Alameda made a different set of decisions … well, we don’t get to know.
All we know is the Sooners claimed their 52nd straight victory, their fourth straight at this World Series and the first of two required to claim the program’s third straight national championship, its fifth since 2016 and its seventh total.
That kind of dominance is hard to interrupt, so maybe OU wins by the same 5-0 score no matter what Alameda chose to do with her pitchers. And still, it’s loony how OU’s preceding reputation, not necessarily actually still mortal band of Sooners coach Patty Gasso puts on the field, continues to play with opponents’ brains.
The choice to start Mack Leonard and her 2.81 earned run average against OU can only be reasoned away like this:
In 2013, having won Game 1 of the championship series over Tennessee, Gasso did not start all-world-ace Keilani Ricketts in the circle, but understudy Michelle Gascoigne.
Gascoigne happened to shut the Vols out but that’s not the point. The point is Gasso saved her ace for Game 3 should the series have reached Game 3 and perhaps she might do it again this time around.
So, rather than starting her ace, Kathryn Sandercock, Alameda threw Leonard and after her a parade of three others also not named Kathryn Sandercock.
Perhaps tonight, Sandercock gets to face Nicole May or Alex Storako. Or maybe it will be Bahl; but if it’s Bahl, it will be Bahl having pitched the day before, so maybe not Bahl at her best, even though Bahl anywhere near her best remains super formidable.
She’s thrown 21 2/3 innings without allowing a run since arriving in at the World Series for crying out loud.
But maybe it will work, and if it does, perhaps Alameda will seek me out personally and tell me, “I told you so.”
That would be great.
But here’s the other thing.
After three innings, she’d allowed just one Sooner hit. And while one OU baserunner had reached second base in that span, two Florida State runners had reached second and one had reached third. Leonard was literally out-pitching Bahl.
Then, barely, Leonard, nipped the thigh of Haley Lee and before Kinzie Hansen could take her place in the batter’s box, Alameda had removed Leonard and replaced her with freshman Makenna Reid.
Alameda could have stuck with Leonard. That, and it was her second chance to put Sandercock in the game, only this time the Seminole ace would have been spotted three innings with every reason to believe her hitters could push at least one run across, just as they had already twice threatened.
If you watched, or even if you didn’t, you may know the rest.
Lee came home on Hansen’s double. Hansen came home on Alyssa Brito’s single and, three batters later, after an infield hit from Alynah Torres and a throwing error from Reid, Brito came home and OU led 3-0.
The rest of it hardly matters, though Florida State left fielder Kaley Mudge happened to turn in the defensive play of the whole tournament, bringing a would-have-been home run by a good two feet at least from Tiare Jennings back into the ballpark instead.
Had Mudge not, it would have been 8-0.
Among her applauders was Jennings herself, which is super cool.
It may appear an odd drum to beat. Here’s an historic softball team, surely bound to win it all anyway, so why get upset with the opponent for poor strategy?
Because it’s bad softball.
Really, it’s bad name-the-sport.
As Herm Edwards told us, “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME,” so why won’t Sooner opponents do it?
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Tennessee on Saturday and Florida State Wednesday.
“Not the ball game we wanted in the win-loss column,” Alameda said.
Is she sure about that?
Gasso made the point best.
The question was actually about Bahl and the World Series schedule, filled with days off for the winners that’s allowed the Sooner ace to keep coming back to the circle.
“It’s just that first game that’s really important,” Gasso said. “I mean, you’ve got to go for it because they’re so well coached.”
Yes, you do.
But only one team did.