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'The most team-oriented player I've ever had': Patty Gasso tears up, Grace Green homers in Sooners' 14-0 victory

Grace Green

Senior Grace Green during the championship game of the WCWS on June 9, 2022.

While reflecting on the career of fifth-year senior Grace Green, Patty Gasso closed her eyes, dropped her head and tensed her face in an effort to fight back tears.

As she smirked and gave a friendly nudge to Green, who responded with a chuckle and consolatory pat on the shoulder, it was clear her efforts would fail. After over 30 seconds of silence, Gasso gathered her thoughts, and an outpour of emotion ensued from OU’s typically restrained coach.

“Underappreciated,” Gasso said of the fifth-year senior following the Sooners’ (44-1, 14-0 Big 12) 14-0 rout of Kansas (22-23, 4-10). “But the glue of this team, and I know it, but I don't know that a lot of other people know it. I trust her. She's the most team-oriented player I've ever had. And I appreciate that she stuck with this program. 

“… For me, watching her do it, (it’s) almost like being her mom as well.”

Green’s three-run home run was the cherry on top of OU’s win in game two of a three-game series Saturday in Norman. 

“One of our best, cleanest, most complete games we’ve had in a while,” Gasso said. “I'm really really proud of this team. And their energy is infectious.”

Junior Nicole May and freshman Kierston Deal combined for a no-hitter and allowed one baserunner in five innings. May (14-0) struck out four hitters in four innings and improved her ERA to 0.41, which ranks second nationally.

May’s near-immaculate outing was aided by OU’s defense, which completed its seventh consecutive game without an error. Infielder Alyssa Brito closed the top half of the fourth inning by fielding a chopper down the third base line and, well into foul territory, heaving an on-the-run throw over to first base.

“It's becoming routine, and nothing about what they're doing is routine,” Gasso said. “I think these are hard plays for Major League Baseball players or anybody else who's an elite infielder. Brito’s play was just off the charts.”

While defense and pitching have anchored the Sooners’ recent dominance of five consecutive shutouts, Gasso felt her offensive efforts lagging behind, which she expressed after OU’s 8-0 win in game one on Friday.

“There were times when I felt, honestly, like we'd have 2-1 counts and we're swinging a little more defensively than offensively,” Gasso said following Friday’s game. “… At-bats with 2-1 counts (felt) almost like they were 2-2 counts (where) we're trying to fight pitches off versus just finding a gap. We're better than what we showed. We all know that. I'm not saying anything we don't know.

“We really need this weekend to feel like we're trending offensively in a good direction. And I believe that we will.”

Gasso’s belief became reality Saturday when OU tallied eight runs on seven hits in the first inning, capped by center fielder Jayda Coleman’s team-leading 13th home run, a three-run blast to left field.

“They're a team. They're together. They care for each other. But they're still in battles with each other to get into the game,” Gasso said. “So they really want to make the most of their at bats. I felt that today. You put eight on somebody in the first inning, it's quite demoralizing.

“And they went after it hard. They really wanted to keep passing the bat and set the tone early. … I was really excited to see that, and it went throughout the lineup. Everybody had something to do with finding ways to score runs.”

Coleman finished 3 for 3 with three RBIs and scored twice. The Sooners’ offense took a quick break in the second before adding to their lead in the third with a two-run home run from catcher Kinzie Hansen. Hansen is 4 for 5 and has driven four runs home in the first two games of the series.

After building an 11-0 lead through three innings, Gasso deployed left fielder Quincee Lilio, infielder Alynah Torres, catcher Sophia Nugent and Green into the field. After Nugent snuck a ground ball past KU’s middle infielders during the bottom half of the fourth, advancing pinch runner Avery Hodge to second, the table was set for Green, who gave OU a two touchdown lead with her first home run since Feb. 12.

Green, who’s seen 20 plate appearances this season, was hitless in her past 11 at-bats. Her excitement smeared across her face as she hustled down the first base line, nearly passing Hodge en route to second base.

Green’s excitement was rivaled by her teammates, who piled out of their dugout and huddled around home plate in anticipation of Green’s arrival.

“That's what I think makes this team so special; everyone is cheering for everybody,” Green said. “... We have people who get taken out and someone gets put in their position and they're still cheering for that person. And I think that's so awesome. … It just felt awesome to know that everyone's got each other's back.”

Green, along with fellow seniors Grace Lyons, Alex Storako, and Haley Lee, will be honored after the Sooners take on Kansas in game three of the series at 1 p.m. Sunday in Norman.

sports editor

Louis Raser is the OU Daily's summer sports editor and covers OU softball. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism.

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