Sooners' regular finale good for everybody
From the way they won, with a shot from their legend, to letting the rest of the sport know they're not unbeatable, just very hard to beat, it was a good day for all
All the way around, for all involved, it may not get any better than early Saturday evening at Marita Hynes Field.
For Oklahoma, which closed its regular season with a Bedlam sweep, moving to an impossible 48-1 over its now completed regular season.
For Oklahoma State, losing aside, which should only have more confidence the next time around, which may come as soon as next weekend, the Big 12 softball tourney beginning its three-day Hall of Fame Stadium run on Thursday.
For the rest of of the game writ large, because OU was not remotely unbeatable, needing three double plays to get its 21 outs, one of them a speared liner, step-on-second-base job from Grace Lyons that may have kept OSU from pushing its early lead to four runs.
It was a 5-3 OU victory that literally could have gone either way.
The Sooners scored their five on just three hits, the difference being two hit batsmen and a walk, leading to the bases becoming loaded before … well, we’ll get to it.
The Cowgirls scored their three runs on just four hits, and they might have done a whole lot more than that, getting walked eight times, even four straight issued by Sooner reliever Hope Trautwein in the top of the sixth, their first trip to the plate after … oh, fine, let’s go there now, we may have buried the lead.
It may not get any better, too, because of how OU managed to win it on this otherwise pedestrian day of Sooner softball.
The Sooners entered the bottom of the fifth trailing 2-1 with no great reason to believe they could get to Cowgirl starter Kelly Maxwell. Or, better put, no great reason given what had taken place over the first four innings.
The only run Maxwell had allowed was unearned, having come across in the fourth when Lyons drove in Tiare Jennings — on with a two-base error — with, if you can believe it, the Sooners’ first hit.
Yet, as mentioned by ESPN’s broadcasting crew, OU’s lineup wears on a pitcher.
Indeed, even the idea of OU’s lineup wears on a pitcher, for the Sooners entered the weekend leading the nation in hitting, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and scoring, so even when you’re mowing them down, you’re never comfortable, forever moments away from everything falling apart.
Maybe that’s what happened to Maxwell, who plunked Jana Johns, plunked Taylon Snow, even after sticking her with a 1-2 count, and walked Jada Coleman.
That brought up Alo and though she’d struck out looking twice, what happened still felt inevitable.
The grand slam she hit wasn’t a crush. In fact, taken high, high, high over right-center field, it barely got out, a young fan making a fine grab in the front row. Yet, that’s every bit as classic an Alo shot as a tape-measure drive, because who else hits pop-ups that leave the yard?
So it was a great day.
For all involved with the sport, from sea to shining sea, the Sooner Nation included, and not just because its team won.
It was a lesson in reality.
OU doesn’t carry the nation’s No. 1 RPI. That designation belongs to Virginia Tech, the best team in the best conference, and just one of four ACC squads among the NCAA RPI’s first 12, along with No. 3 Florida State, No. 9 Clemson and No. 12 Duke.
The SEC, by the way, has four of the top 13 on the list in No. 4 Alabama, No. 6 Arkansas, No. 10 Florida and No. 13 Tennessee.
Nevertheless, like last season, the Sooners are bound to get the NCAA’s No. 1 seed again and bound, too, to be a bigger national championship favorite than even a year ago, for they also lead the nation in earned run average.
Still, Saturday remained a reminder of the unassailable fact you have to play the games.
Trautwein, who walked four straight, still carries a 0.17 ERA, but Saturday proved she’s hardly invincible. Ditto for Nicole May, who didn’t get her first strikeout until re-entering for Trautwein, having amassed no Ks over her first 4 2/3 frames. And any team that hopes to win it all is going to need shut down pitching — strikeout pitching — at some point along the way to the crown.
Yes, everybody knows freshman Jordi Bahl’s the real ace of the staff — 0.95 ERA, 132 1/3 innings, 199 strikeouts — but the regional, super regional and World Series stages will all be new to her as the opponents only get better.
Coach Patty Gasso’s team is amazing.
Very nearly unbeatable.
But not entirely.
Heck, it’s good the Sooners themselves got reminded that, too.
And they won, and Alo hit a granny and the fun’s just beginning.
Another pleasure to read from Clay Horning! You give such richness that informs and enhances!