The singular greatness and utter inevitability of Jocelyn Alo
Even on a day Hope Trautwein threw a no-hitter and Patty Gasso said only now is her team 'starting to peak,' the big story remained the historic Sooner slugger
Opening day of the Norman Super Regional and there are more things to write about than Jocelyn Alo’s singular greatness.
Just not for very long.
There is the thought that, unthinkably great though Jordy Bahl may be, how much better can she possibly be than Hope Trautwein given Trautwein’s last two outings, a 3-2 complete game triumph over Texas A&M, followed by Friday afternoon’s 8-0 five-inning shutout over Central Florida, which also happened to be a no-hitter.
Maybe the 0.42 earned run average Trautwein brought into Friday actually comes with no excuses and she’s every bit as good or better than Bahl, whose 0.95 earned run average, compiled over more innings against stiffer foes in bigger moments has led us to believe the she, the freshman phenom, not the fifth-year senior who transferred in from North Texas, is actually the staff ace.
Then there’s what Sooner coach Patty Gasso said that can only be considered frightening if true, that her team, which leads the nation in every meaningful offensive category and earned run average, too, is only now “starting to peak.”
Is that even possible?
Still, we must go deep with Alo.
(See what I did there?)
It really is her singular greatness.
They’d find a place for her in the field if it was required to keep her bat in the lineup, but it’s not, so they don’t, so very nearly all she does is hit.
Not fleet of foot, Gasso frequently brings in a pinch runner for her, taking Alo off the basepaths before taking advantage of the re-entry rule that among diamond sports only softball allows.
Not only is Alo not the most swift, since NCAA play began baserunning has not been her forté either.
Friday, she made her third out on the bases since last week’s Norman Regional began, which is a whole lot given the few times she’s actually been retired and the three times she’s left the yard, only requiring she circle the bases.
Yet those home runs?
What they’ve done is reach a new level of inevitability, even for the queen of them, who’s now spanked 28 this season and an NCAA record 116 since arrival.
Forever, though hard for opponents to accept, the right way to pitch to Alo has been to, you know, actually pitch to her.
Hitting from the two-hole, a great way to give up a big first inning to the Sooners has been to walk her because the lineup around her is just too strong.
Challenge Alo and maybe she makes an out. Put her on by being afraid to and chances are one of OU’s next three batters — Tiare Jennings (.382/.503/.860), Grace Lyons (.412/486/.869), Lynnsie Elam (.305/.357/.762) — will bring her and perhaps others home.
That still stands.
What’s different is that now, runners already on base, especially if you’re trying to keep an already productive Sooner inning from becoming a crushing Sooner inning, despite the strength of the lineup around her, it’s finally time to put Alo on, not beginning to pitch to her because you know what’s coming.
You had to love Central Florida coach Cindy Ball-Malone’s attitude following Friday’s contest.
“Well, the lady to my right, I trust her to do anything, I don’t care who’s on [base], she said, referring to Gianna Mancha, the Knights starting pitcher. “She got us here, so we’ll go after [Alo].”
You had to love the attitude, but the Knights couldn’t have loved the results.
It’s an uncanny stat, but Alo has not homered her first trip to the plate since March 25 against Baylor, 29 games ago, nor has she has hit a solo home run her first trip since March 22, at Kentucky, 30 games ago.
Instead, Alo’s been saving them for moments they’ll do maximum damage, plating more than just her, making big innings huge, destroying opponents psyches and you can totally see it coming.
Last game of the regular season against Oklahoma State, Sooners trailing 2-1 in the fifth, Cowgirl ace Kelly Maxwell, who’d handcuffed them to that point, plunked Jana Johns, plunked Taylon Snow and walked Jayda Coleman.
Up came Alo.
Grand slam, naturally.
Norman Regional opener, fourth inning against Prairie View A&M, the Panthers not done yet, trailing 6-0 entering the frame, Jana Johns had just singled home Taylon Snow and here came Alo.
Norman Regional final, against Texas A&M, OU already up big in the first inning, scoring seven, Alo among them after walking her first time up. Still in the first and here came Alo again, Coleman aboard.
See ya, 9-0, drive home safely.
Friday, Central Florida the foe, Sooners with one across in the first inning and two more on Coleman’s second-inning double, plating Snow and Alyssa Brito, pushing Rylie Boone to third base and up came Alo.
The shocker would have been her not going deep.
But of course she did, her three-run blast making it 6-0.
For the Knights, a dicey game became over.
“I’ve just been comfortable in those big moments,” Alo said. “I’m just trying to continue to hit the ball hard and just do my thing.”
Earlier, Ball-Malone, sort of defending challenging Alo, said solo home runs aren’t killers.
She’s right about that, but Alo doesn’t hit solos.
Lately, cracks appear in the dam and she goes and blows it up.
Everybody know it’s coming.
Nobody can stop it.
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Norman Super Regional schedule
Oklahoma 8, Central Florida 0
UCF at OU, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, if necessary
UCF at OU, TBA
In case you missed it
Sooner dominance hardly fair, April 9
How good are the Knights, May 27