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OU softball: Sydney Romero returns to field against Sooners, faces Team Mexico hopefuls Giselle Juarez, Nicole Mendes

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Then-senior third baseman Sydney Romero holds up a one after hitting a home run in the game against UCLA for the national championship, June 3, 2019.

After Sunday’s game, every player from Team Mexico lined up on the first base line at OU’s Marita Hynes Field and bowed to the crowd.

The fans present gave a standing ovation and the Sooners showed their support by waving and shouting at Mexico’s national team.The weekend’s games against Team Mexico were the first time the Sooners have played an exhibition game against a national team at their home stadium.

The only other time OU has played against a national team was in February of 2018 against Team Japan in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Unlike the game against Team Japan, the games against Team Mexico were set in the middle of the season. They provided an opportunity for unique competition and an escape from the pressures of regular season play.

“What a great weekend,” head coach Patty Gasso said. “We were looking at this weekend like our opening Big 12 weekend just because of the way it was set up.”

The No. 1 Sooners (22-0) won all three games against Team Mexico, 11-0, 2-1 and 12-3. Oklahoma outpaced its international foe in runs, 23-4, and home runs, 5-2.

Former OU infielder and current volunteer assistant coach Sydney Romero got the opportunity to play for Team Mexico against her alma mater in the series. Due to COVID-19 concerns, Romero stayed in the Sooners’ dugout when she wasn’t on the field and was the only player for Team Mexico to wear a mask while on the field.

“Everybody wants Syd right now, that’s pretty evident,” Gasso said. “The way that we get to keep her is to keep her in our dugout because if she goes to the other dugout, then we lose her for quarantine.

“Any time I get a chance to see Sydney Romero play again, my heart beats a little faster.”

Romero is slated to play for Team Mexico in this year’s summer Olympics. The San Diego, California native joined OU’s coaching staff in 2019 after playing four seasons for the Sooners, recording 320 hits and 54 home runs in her collegiate career. 

And although she was playing against OU for the first time, her peers were more than excited to see her playing again. She garnered one hit during the series, but the joy of her return to the field was evident.

“I guess you could say it was weird but it was a lot of fun,” senior catcher Lynnsie Elam said. “I got the opportunity to play with her for a few years. ... You don’t think in the future that you're going to get to play Team Mexico, an Olympic team, and play your former teammate.”

The Sooners also have two current players who are fighting for spots on Team Mexico’s Olympic roster in redshirt senior pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez and redshirt senior utility Nicole Mendes. The exhibition games were the perfect time for the veterans to show off their skills.

“Of course there are nerves,” Juarez said. “They’re going to the Olympics. That’s a big deal. … My whole team helped me stay calm and allowed me to go out there and do my thing.”

The duo didn’t disappoint as Juarez tallied seven strikeouts in eight total innings pitched and Mendes recorded five hits on nine total at-bats across the series. Before the three-game set, Juarez had garnered 50 strikeouts in 39 innings pitched while Mendes had recorded 20 hits and four homeruns in 46 at-bats this season.

Ultimately, the series was an opportunity many collegiate teams never receive. After a torrid run through its nonconference games, OU benefitted from the reprieve of exhibition play as it prepares to open its Big 12 slate against Iowa State on March 26.

“It was super special to see both of my teams come together and get to say ‘Hi’ to both of them,” Mendes said. “They were able to come here and play in my college stadium and that, to me, is something I’ll never forget.”

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