The 2020 softball season is just around the corner.
The Sooners are set to play Feb. 6 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, against Nevada. Head coach Patty Gasso, alongside players Jocelyn Alo, Lynnsie Elam and Giselle “G” Juarez, took to the podium recently to discuss the upcoming season.
Here are three takeaways from the press conference:
Nicole Mendes will return soon
Senior utility Nicole Mendes has been a key player under Gasso for three seasons. But going into her final year for the Sooners, she suffered an ACL injury. Despite this setback that normally takes an extended amount of time to come back from, Mendes is expected back by the time, if not before, Big 12 play begins.
“She got her brace as of yesterday and she’s already moving much better, so we’re anticipating looking at her mid to late March,” Gasso said. “How much she’s going to be impactful by that time I’m not quite sure, but she’s definitely going to be in the middle of this race as well.”
Newcomers will play a big role in 2020
Gasso announced that at least four new faces will play meaningful time this season: freshman outfielder Rylie Boone, freshman infielder Mackenzie Donihoo, freshman catcher Kinzie Hansen and junior Auburn transfer Taylon Snow.
"I’m looking at really three, plus Taylon Snow, as newcomers to the lineup that I feel pretty confident about, but they’re all going to make impacts for us," Gasso said. "Since the Sooners lost four key starters at graduation, the large class of nine freshmen look to fill the void."
Gasso went on to announce that Boone will take over in center field, but she didn't say it was due to Mendes’ injury, meaning Mendes could possibly slide over to either corner outfield spot. This move would not be new to Mendes, as she was the primary right fielder her first two seasons with the Sooners.
Despite being a new face, now presumed second baseman Snow is used to the competition, as she was the everyday shortstop at Auburn for two seasons. Gasso also had high praise for Hansen, primarily for her skills with the bat in her hands.
Captains for the upcoming season
The captains for the Sooners this season are Elam and Mendes, but having two captains is an anomaly in the history of the program under Gasso.
"(I let the team vote,) and 99.9 percent of the time it’s in line with what I’m feeling," Gasso said. "Actually, for the first time since I can remember, it’s a tie."
Elam and Mendes will take over the role previously held by 2019 All-American Caleigh Clifton. Before that, Sooner coach and former teammate Kelsey Arnold held the position during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Even though Elam and Mendes are the captains of the team, Gasso said it’ll be a team effort in helping the young, new faces acclimate to the program.
"They’re both going to take on the role as captain, but (Alo and Juarez) right up here are part of it as well. So it might’ve been voted on, but I know that these two upperclassmen are going to be instrumental in helping, as well as others that have had World Series experience,” Gasso said.
“We have a lot of newcomers, but I feel like they’ve been here forever, too, so it’s really exciting,” Juarez said.