Sooners head coach Patty Gasso answered questions from the media on Jan. 28 for the first time prior to the 2020 season, which starts on Feb. 6 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, against Nevada.
Here's what Gasso said:
“We’re ready to go. It’s kind of unbelievable that we’re back hitting the dirt again, but we’ve worked really hard this fall. New look, new group of players. Excited to be coaching again. Really a lot of teaching going on, but they’re a very talented group so I’m really looking forward to what's ahead.”
On getting newcomers acclimated
“I’ll probably magnify that a lot more because there’s really nine newcomers and 10 returners. It’s a lot of teaching, learning the system, a lot of teaching from our returners as well. But I trust them, they know our system, they know the style that we need to play in order to be successful. It’s been a real big team effort and I feel like these newcomers have really got their feet on the ground much more. I feel like we’re in a great place. The last two weeks we’ve taken some giant steps in the right direction. Looking forward to seeing what it looks like without crimson and creme on the field forever. I mean a new colored uniform is going to be exciting for this group.”
Nicole Mendes' injury status
“She is, and she’s got her brace as of yesterday and she’s already moving much better, so we’re anticipated looking at her mid to late March. 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.”
On 2020 captains
This season's captains are junior catcher Lynnsie Elam and senior utility Nicole Mendes.
“The team I let vote and 99.9 percent of the time it’s in line with what I’m feeling and actually for the first time since I can remember it’s a tie, and it’s Lynnsie Elam and Nicole Mendes. They’re both going to take on the role as captain, but these players 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. Which we got to count on them sharing their knowledge as well."
On former players joining the coaching staff
Sydney Romero, Falepolima Aviu and Shay Knighten joined the Sooners' coaching staff for the 2020 season. They were a part of Gasso's illustrious senior class in 2019, and won two Women's College World Series'.
"It’s going to be very impactful, but I get absolute joy looking at those guys everyday knowing that they’re going to be in their own program one day very soon. They’re going to be very good coaches, they’re engaged with this team and they’re locked in with this team as much as they were when they were players. They really are rooting for these guys and they’re really trying to help in every way they can."
On depth, versatility of new players
“I’ve got the entire infield working all over the place. Eliyah Flores at third, but she’s worked at second. I’ve got Kinzie Hansen and Lynnsie Elam working at first but also catching, I’ve got Taylon Snow at second and shortstop, I’ve got Mackenzie Donihoo working at third, shortstop, second and outfield. I’ve had her (sophomore utility Grace Green) in the outfield, she's very comfortable there and I’ve had her at first as well.”
On the pitching staff
"We’re not even close to deciding those things right yet. It's just really trying to get the newcomers. And Brooke Vestal’s been having a really good start to January and shoulder. Yeah, I mean, they're all fighting for we know Gisele (senior pitcher Gisele Juarez), we know Shannon (senior pitcher Shannon Saile) pretty well it's just who balances out who's a good combination to come in for someone else if they look the same. It doesn't make sense so we're learning still. This is absolutely by committee it could be come in and get these two lefties and thank you very much for your service today you helped us win, find a way to win and now bring in you know, it's however we can feed them, get them comfortable, get them learning, but to count so much on for pitchers as never thrown a pitch in college. We don't want to do it in a way that's going to just crush their mindset. So it's just easing everybody in and putting challenging them in certain situations.”
On impact newcomers
“Without question I’d say two that I’m counting on. Our pitching staff has some quality pitchers that are getting better everyday. I think pitching by committee is going to be exactly what we’re starting to become accustomed to. I probably would tell you Rylie Boone, freshman out of the Tulsa area, is going to take over the center field spot. Mackenzie Donihoo, really salty freshman, fearless, hard working athlete is going to find her way in there somewhere as well. Those two I know I’m counting on. A newcomer that’s not new to the college game is Taylon Snow, a transfer from Auburn who will be locked in at second base. Kinzie Hansen, big hitter will be in the middle of the lineup. She can catch, she’s been working in out at first. You’ll see her definitely in the lineup as well. I’m looking at really three plus Taylon Snow newcomers to the lineup that I feel pretty confident about, but they’re all going to make impacts for us. I’ve got some young freshman that got unbelievable power, they just need to learn the way of the land pitching wise because when you’re in high school and travel ball you aren’t seeing anything like what you’re about to see when you play some really great competition, but I think they can change the game with one swing. There’s going to be a lot of new faces that you’ll get used to.”