No. 1 Oklahoma (46-1 15-1 Big 12) defeated No. 7 Oklahoma State (38-10, 14-2 Big 12) 7-1 in the opener of the teams’ conference series on Thursday night in Norman.
Freshman right-hander Jordy Bahl pitched a complete game, allowing one run on four hits while notching six strikeouts. Sophomore infielder Tiare Jennings went 1-for-4 with a three-run home run. OU went 6-for-25 collectively against the Cowgirls.
Here are three takeaways from the Sooners win:
Bahl poised for postseason
With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Bahl remained steady in the circle. She uncorked a pitch and struck out junior outfielder Karli Petty to finish off OU’s win.
After giving up OSU’s only run of the contest in the top of the fifth inning via Sydney Pennington’s RBI single, Bahl kept Oklahoma State hitless in the final two innings with two strikeouts.
Head coach Patty Gasso has been preparing Bahl for clutch moments all season. She pitched Bahl early against No. 3 UCLA, then-No. 17 Tennessee and now the Cowgirls in a series to crown the Big 12 regular season champion.
Bahl hasn’t shied away from tough situations. For Gasso, Bahl’s performance against OSU proves she is ready for her first postseason run.
“She's made differently,” Gasso said. "She doesn't get scared or intimidated when the going gets tough and when the bases are loaded. It's a challenge to her and she loves challenges. That's one thing that I know about her, she is the most intense competitor, and you may not see it in her face, but I know it in her heart and I see it in the way she moves. It's so fun to watch from a coaching point of view.”
With two games remaining in the Bedlam series, Bahl is continuing to strive toward her dream of playing with the Sooners in the Women’s College World Series.
“I would just say that the opportunity to play ball here has always been a dream,” Bahl said. “It's just a blessing to have this opportunity. We love being tested. We love being challenged and the postseason is like the final exam. So we're really excited for that and looking forward to it.”
Johns’ single ignites OU offense
Oklahoma State pitcher Kelly Maxwell was on a roll.
Through two innings, the Sooners were held hitless by the redshirt junior left-hander, and that trend seemed likely to continue after redshirt senior utility Taylon Snow struck out swinging to lead off the bottom third.
After Snow, however, redshirt senior infielder Jana Johns went 12 pitches deep before finally ripping OU’s first hit of the game to centerfield. Afterward, Johns shouted toward the Sooners’ dugout, which was a clear signal that the momentum shifted in OU’s favor.
Moments later, redshirt senior utility Jocelyn Alo slapped an RBI single to score Johns for the game’s first run. Then, Jennings hammered a three-run shot to right field to score Alo and sophomore utility Jayda Coleman, giving the Sooners a 4-0 lead at the end of the third.
“It was huge,” Jennings said of Johns’ single. “I mean, you hear all these like big momentum things, and once that went up that was our momentum shift. So, I think Jana started it off and … it started the whole rally for us.”
Oklahoma finished the final four innings scoring three more runs and claimed the lead in the series.
To Jennings, the most significant outcome Thursday was that OU was able to dissect Maxwell’s strategies for six innings, banking that knowledge for a potential rematch later this weekend or in the Big 12 tournament next week. Maxwell finished the game having allowed six hits and walks while notching six strikeouts.
“I think it's very important,” Jennings said of having intel on Maxwell. “I mean, she made adjustments throughout the entire game, the beginning of the game and then towards the end. So, it's cool that we got to see what she would do, and how we can adjust to be better when we see her again. I think her pitching throughout the entire game just gave us more of a look of what to expect from her.”
Gasso pushing for more replay angles
After urging college softball to add instant replay during last year’s WCWS, Gasso is still looking to fine-tune the new addition to the sport with better camera angles for video review.
In Thursday’s game, junior outfielder Rylie Boone was met with a close play at first base after hitting a ground ball to the pitcher. Gasso’s immediate reaction was to look toward graduate assistant Falepolima Aviu, who’s the first base coach and had the best view of the play.
After Gasso challenged the play, the call stood as an out upon umpire review. Gasso felt like if she had a centerfield angle there would’ve been more evidence to reverse the call, as there were only two available replay angles.
Gasso didn’t have a clear angle from her spot in the coaches box, but she trusted Aviu’s intuition on overruling the out after Aviu was celebrating Boone beating the throw.
“I challenged it because she's got a keen eye,” Gasso said. “She celebrates like she just hit a home run when that happens, so I think instant replay has been fabulous for the game.”
As the NCAA expands technology for collegiate softball, but the lack of camera angles still looms large, Gasso is pushing for more comprehensive views to create more reversals in favor of the Sooners.
“The problem that we're having right now is just not enough camera angles,” Gasso said. “We might have more victories and more overturns if we have the right camera angles and that's what we need to work on going forward, placing them in the right place.”
Next, the Sooners will face the Cowgirls in the second game of the series at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 6, in Norman.