Tiare Jennings did what she’s been doing all season.
Stepping into the box Sunday afternoon against Iowa State with the bases loaded and two outs, the freshman infielder was looking to add to a 6-1 Sooner lead. As usual, she delivered.
Jennings launched the fifth pitch of the at-bat over the right field fence for a grand slam and extended the OU lead to 10-1. The Sooners wouldn’t stop there, going on to win 22-2 and sweeping the Cyclones (23-8, 0-3 Big 12) in Ames in their first conference series of the season from March 26-28.
The No. 1 Sooners’ (25-0, 3-0) consistency in their offensive outbursts has been impressive. It’s one thing to decimate a below-.500 team, but dominating a conference foe that had only five losses entering the weekend shows Oklahoma’s torrid pace is sustainable, regardless of opponent.
“I’m really proud of this group,” head coach Patty Gasso said in a Wednesday press conference. “Ames is always a tough place to play, and we started conference (play) well.”
While OU’s bats keep thundering, teams are doing their best to limit its offensive production by walking senior utility Jocelyn Alo.
Alo is having an All-America-worthy season, hitting .565 and leading the nation in home runs and RBIs with 21 and 56, respectively. Those numbers are incredible, considering many teams are electing to walk the Hauula, Hawaii, native rather than pitch to her.
In the first game of the series March 26, Alo went 2-for-3 with two home runs and five RBIs, including a monstrous two-run blast that cleared the left field fence with ease.
During game two, the Cyclones elected to take a different route in pitching to Alo, as she was walked in all four plate appearances. Fortunately for the Sooners, there was no change in offensive production, with OU run-ruling ISU, 10-2, in six innings. With that victory, Oklahoma attained the best season start in program history.
“I think it is a smart strategy, but at the same time you have Kinzie Hansen hitting behind her,” Gasso said. “You have to pick your poison. Walking her might be turning a two-run home run into a three-run home run.”
As Iowa State found out, even with Alo’s impact being limited, Oklahoma has multiple players who can get the job done. That was evident over the weekend, as 14 different Sooners got a chance at the plate, with all 14 reaching base at some point during the series.
Players like Jennings, junior utility Grace Green, and freshman utility Jayda Coleman all had substantial impacts, with the trio combining for 14 hits in the series with 15 RBIs.
“The competition we have is tremendous,” Gasso said. “If you take a breath and decide you don’t want to do something, someone will knock you out and take your spot.”
Ultimately, the Sooners move forward into their second Big 12 series against Kansas (17-11, 1-2) with great confidence. Their bats are hot and the top team in the country doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. However, OU isn’t concerned with its record, but is taking things at the same pace it has all season.
“It doesn’t matter what our ranking is or how many wins we have,” Green said Wednesday. “We just want to continue working and take it one pitch at a time. That’s what’s been working for us.”