Sooners win, what's Gasso thinking and what kind of shape is Jordy Bahl really in?
As Oklahoma began the NCAA's Norman Regional with a run-rule victory over Prairie View A&M, the plot thickened around the eventual availability (or not) of their freshman pitching ace
If the subject’s softball, Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso’s certifiably beyond reproach.
Certifiably because she’s won five national championships, last season she did it out of the losers’ bracket for crying out loud and, Friday, the day her Sooners began their march toward what could become the program’s sixth World Series crown, OU dispatched SWAC champion Prairie View A&M 14-0 in a game that required just five frames, making it OU’s 35th victory (of 50) in which the run-rule required being invoked.
Not just that, but nor did Gasso’s pitchers give up a hit, which made it a no-hitter, too, just not a perfect game because starter Nicole May had the misfortune of walking Panthers’ two-hole hitter Audrey Garcia in the fourth inning.
So, she’s beyond reproach.
Not that she can’t be reproached, just that, her success so wild, she’s beyond it.
It’s a fine point.
Required because I may reproach her for a few paragraphs here in a moment. Well, kind of, sort of, because they’re hardly complaints. It’s just that Gasso remains capable of doing odd things at odd times and it’s so much fun to detail them when she does.
Before that happens, a little more about the game, the second of the NCAA’s Norman Regional, the first played right before it, a 5-1 Texas A&M victory over Minnesota.
• Winning it puts the Sooners in a winner’s bracket semifinal at 1 p.m. today against the Aggies.
• Half an hour after that one, Minnesota and Prairie View play an elimination contest and half an hour after that the loser of the opener plays the winner of the second in another elimination game, leaving one or two games to complete the regional on Sunday.
• The Sooners hit four home runs, the first a tape-measure laser from Tiare Jennings, her 23rd of the season, flying 15 feet over the scoreboard with all its velocity intact, making it 2-0 in the first inning … The second a line drive over right-center field from Jocelyn Alo, her NCAA record 114th and 26th of the season, that made it 9-0 in the fifth … The third a towering launch over left field from Grace Lyons, her 19th of the season, that made it 11-0, still in the fifth … Finally a three-run shot from Turiya Coleman that might have traveled farther than Jennings’ even as it was just her first home run on just her third hit and 11th at bat since arriving from Houston’s C.E. King High School and how cool is that?
Oh yeah, it came in the fifth, too, forging what became the final score.
• The victory moved the Sooners to 50-2 and dropped the Panthers’ — who won just four games before turning to conference play, where they won 16 of 24 — to 20-29.
So that’s the game and it was cool, especially Turiya Coleman’s shot. But let’s get back to Gasso and some of the craziness only the diamond sports deliver.
One crazy thing (or two)
Have you ever seen a catcher try to throw a base stealer out at second base after ball four?
If you know anything about the diamond, you know that should never happen. If it’s ball four, the runner at first base is awarded second.
Well, Prairie View’s left-handed catcher Biviana Figueroa — that’s right, a left-handed catcher; so glorious, when have you ever seen that? — didn’t realize it was ball four and threw to second anyway, where Jayda Coleman had been running on the pitch. Of course, the ball got a way and the Sooners had runners at the corners rather than first and second.
So, with Jennings at the plate, sitting on 22 home runs with an .883 slugging percentage, what did Gasso do?
She sent Alo, not the most swift, to steal second base. Or, at least, to appear to try to steal second base. Instead, Alo stopped, ran back toward first, getting tagged out before she got there, yet staying alive long enough for Coleman to run home, giving OU a 1-0 lead.
But a moment later, Jennings hit it over the scoreboard into The Pride of Oklahoma’s practice space, a solo shot that put OU up 2-0 rather than a three-run shot that made it 3-0.
“I wanted to send Jocy because we have a play set for that,” Gasso said. “And I just wanted to test their catcher early and see what she looked like, and it’s rare that you see a lefty catcher.”
Gasso took a run off the board, but she had a reason and, anyway, she won 14-0 and did we mention she’s beyond reproach?
Maybe she just wanted to see a left-handed catcher throw to second base. I know I did.
Another crazy thing
Hope Trautwein finished in the circle, coming in for May in the fifth inning, getting a ground out and two swinging strikeouts to finish the night.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
Well, May was throwing a no-hitter.
Can a pitcher not finish a no-no?
“I was going to make sure that our pitchers got an opportunity on the mound tonight, and that … as much as we could, put everybody in,” Gasso said.
So, by same coaching desire — to play everybody — that put Muriya Coleman in to pinch hit in the fifth and give the stadium a jolt with a home run for the ages, Gasso also removed May in the midst of a no hitter.
What if it had been a perfect game?
“I don’t know the answer,” Gasso said.
A final interesting thing
Former Sooner football All-Americans Gabe Ikard and Teddy Lehman host a podcast called “The Oklahoma Breakdown” and Wednesday they posted a conversation with Gasso and, of course, missing pitching ace Jordy Bahl came up.
Gasso may have explained what the freshman’s facing more than she thought she might.
“She was out, but we are still hopeful,” she began. “This is going to come down to a doctor; it’s x-rays, it’s her forearm … There was a time that she couldn’t lift her arm up.”
As Gasso went on, she said the injury occurred during the Bedlam Series, May 7.
“She fielded a ground ball in our pregame warmup, threw it and felt something just really attack her forearm … They got the x-ray and she’s been in constant care and [we’re doing] everything we can to help her through it,” she said. “The pain has subsided substantially. Her x-ray happens today and it’s going to come down to the doctor and it’s probably going to come down to pain tolerance and what she can handle.”
At no point did Gasso say what the original x-ray revealed and, Friday, after beating Prairie View, nobody asked for an update on Bahl’s condition. Undoubtedly many — like me — were still unaware Gasso had revealed what she revealed on Ikard’s and Lehman’s podcast.
Still, though she didn’t say directly what Bahl’s first x-ray revealed, she may have made it clear when she said this:
“We don’t know yet, but it has been done and I know that for a fact because I talked to one of the best pitchers that ever played our game,” Gasso said, “and Jennie Finch … she finished a season 32-0 with a fractured forearm and she talked me through what it felt like. So, I’m not going to have Jordy do anything she’s not ready to do. I’m not going to have Jordy do anything the doctor doesn’t agree that she can do. So, we’re ready one way or the other.”
Though Trautwein’s earned run average of 0.30 is second in the nation and leads the Sooners, Bahl has thrown against better opponents and more innings — 132 1/3 to 92 1/3 — than Trautwein, is a better strikeout pitcher than Trautwein and her 0.95 earned run average is still lights out, ranking fifth in the nation.
The Sooners are back on the field at 1 p.m. today.
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In case you missed it
Sooner dominance hardly fair, April 9