Oklahoma tops Texas, breaking the game along the way
Now, even the Sooners' close games aren't close, nor is there an apparent challenger waiting
OKLAHOMA CITY — Though it’s been written about, spoken of, dissected and postulated, it’s never seemed as real as it seems now.
Just maybe, coach Patty Gasso’s Sooners really are breaking the game they’ve caused so many fans, here and beyond, to know and love.
The defending national champions, Oklahoma lost one conference game and two total prior to the original regional weekend two weeks ago.
Pre-pandemic, 2019, the Sooners were perfect in the Big 12 and lost just twice before NCAA play began. The year before that, same thing.
Indeed, every one of OU's uninterrupted regular seasons since claiming back-to-back national championships in 2016 and '17 has been even more dominant than those regular seasons.
Still, the good news, maybe not for the Sooners but for the sport as a whole, they couldn’t roll over everybody. Somebody was always there to make it hard.
Two different Washington pitchers, Gabbie Plain and Taran Alvelo, shut them out in 2018. Come the championship series, UCLA proved too good in '19.
Though OU brought home a fifth national championship last season, Oddici Alexander was there to remind us that a great pitcher can still shut down a great team.
Now the Sooners may really have done it.
Returning to Hall of Fame Stadium after a day of rest to beat Texas 7-2 on Saturday, the lesson OU appeared to teach those in attendance and watching nationwide on ABC was this: now, even its close games aren’t close.
Not once the entire season had a pitcher retired nine straight Sooners, but that’s just what Longhorn right-hander Hailey Dolcini did after OU opened with a double into the right-center field gap from Jayda Coleman and a home run from, who else, Jocelyn Alo.
Because Texas scratched out a run in its half of the first, the game was on.
Two rivals separated by just a run, the world watching, what could be better?
Dolcini lost her string of Sooner outs in the fourth, but still nothing crossed.
Then came the fifth, best described by a few words in the middle of a longer postgame answer from Alo, who in addition to pushing her NCAA record home run total to 118, elevated her season batting average back to an impossible .500.
That longer answer?
“We threatened in the fourth or third, I think. We were right on it,” she said. “So in the fifth we knew that it was coming. It was just a matter of us trusting ourselves and sticking to our plan.”
The only part of what she said that matters?
“… we knew that it was coming.”
They knew it was coming!
It’s amazing and absurd, too good to be true and yet it keeps on happening. Other teams make adjustments, put together better and longer at bats, learn from one plate appearance to the next and put a run or two on the board.
The Sooner fifth:
Rylie Boone Boone singled.
Jana Johns sacrificed because coach Patty Gasso still has a heart for small ball even though no team’s ever bashed the way her team can bash.
Coleman doubled to left: 3-1.
Alo singled up the middle: 4-1.
Tiare Jennings hit a home run over left field two rows from clearing the entire bleachers, a tape-measure shot of tape-measure shots, because that’s just what the Sooners do: 6-1.
You can’t call it a laugher.
Not fair to Dolcini and it was a tight game for so long.
Nor was it close.
“Murderer’s row,” said Texas coach Mike White, easily the most entertaining and best quote at the World Series.
The term originated as a description of the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Yankees.
It’s an apt description, too, of OU, which counts seven everyday players hitting better than .350, four eclipsing .400 and 77 of its 142 home runs coming from three sources: Alo (30), Jennings (26) and Grace Lyons (21).
“It’s like the row changes,” White said. “Whoever is not hitting, they’re switching in there.”
It’s not just a murderer’s row, but an interchangeable murderer’s row.
They talk about it like it’s nothing.
“Just getting our timing down and getting the pitch we wanted,” Jennings said. “She was obviously mixing it on both sides of the plate. Getting the pitch we wanted and adjusting from there.”
Read that over and over again and it will never compute, from the “Just” that began it, all the way to “adjusting from there.”
She said it like it was easy.
But only one team’s doing it.
The Sooners are a win from returning to the championship series with two games to get it and three, total, from repeating as champs.
In the past, it’s been close.
Not yet this time.
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1: Texas 7, UCLA 2
2: Oklahoma 13, Northwestern 2
3: Florida 7, Oregon State 1
4: Oklahoma State 4, Arizona 2
5: UCLA 6, Northwestern 2
6: Arizona 3, Oregon State 1
7: Oklahoma 7, Texas 2 (ABC)
8: Florida vs. Oklahoma State, in progress (ESPN)
9: UCLA vs. Florida/Oklahoma State loser, 2 p.m. (ABC)
10: Arizona vs. Oklahoma/Texas loser (ESPN2)
11: Oklahoma vs. Winner 9, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
12: Oklahoma vs. Winner 9, 1:30 p.m., if necessary (ESPN)
13: Winner 8 vs. Winner 10, 6 6.m. (ESPN)
14: Winner 8 vs. Winner 10, 8:30 p.m., if necessary (ESPN)
Championship Series, Game 1, TBA (ESPN)
Thursday, June 9
Championship Series, Game 2, TBA (ESPN2)
Friday, June 10
Championship Series, Game 3, if necessary, TBA (ESPN)