OKLAHOMA CITY — Patty Gasso almost called in a pinch hitter for Nicole Mendes.
The junior outfielder struggled in her first two at-bats, with a strikeout in the second inning and a fly-out in the fourth. But hitting coach JT Gasso assured Patty something special was about to happen, so Patty left her in.
Mendes stepped to the plate in Oklahoma's first game of the 2019 Women's College World Series for the third time. The Sooners were in a 2-2 tie with Alabama in the bottom of the sixth. 47 feet from her was the Crimson Tide's ace and SEC Freshman of the Year, Montana Fouts.
As she often does, Mendes said she fell back on her Christian faith with a prayer prior to her at-bat, and it appears the Lord may have been listening.
With a favorable 3-1 count, Mendes swung hard, and she was just inches away from sending the ball over the USA Hall of Fame Stadium wall. Even without the home run, Mendes and senior Raegan Rogers — who was at first base pinch running for sophomore Jocelyn Alo — sped around the bases. Rogers scored and Mendes eventually landed on third base.
"In my last two at-bats I didn't quite hit what I wanted, but knew that I was hacking and that we had a good game plan," Mendes said. "Going in to the at-bat, I took a moment to stop and pray."
The rest of the game was normal Sooner softball, with an impressive performance from junior pitcher Giselle Juarez, who tossed nine strikeouts, and senior infielder Sydney Romero, who went 2-3 at the plate and scored two runs.
But there were a couple atypical moments from the Big 12 Pitcher and Player of the Year. In the fifth, Juarez gave up a solo home run to Alabama's Claire Jenkins and Romero had an error with an errant throw from third to first, just her sixth of the year.
The two are veterans of the WCWS, and their experience didn't let their mistakes phase them. Juarez went on to strike out three more batters, and Romero made a highlight catch in the infield.
"I guess (I bounced back) by just letting go," Juarez said. "Just not letting it affect our game and just moving on to the next pitch.
"I wasn't too worried about it," Romero said. "I knew Giselle had my back and I trust my teammates so much that I wasn't going to dwell on it."
Now the Sooners will look to rival Oklahoma State. After the Cowgirls upset Florida to advance on Thursday, the two teams are set for a Bedlam rematch at 8:30 p.m. CT on Friday, May 30.
Oddly enough, Gasso says there's no added significance to the matchup.
"I don't know if you'll to believe me, but not really," Gasso said. "It's going to be somebody, and if it's not (Oklahoma State), then its Florida. There's history and I know everyone wants to see it, but we just want to find ways to win and get ourselves to a place where we're playing on Sunday. That's the important thing, that's what we have to focus on and not get caught up in all the hype."