OKLAHOMA CITY — Jocelyn Alo was calm.
The player of the year was reserved in the batter’s box despite the 2-1 deficit. Alo saw the pitch she wanted, smacked it and knew it was gone. The senior then circled the bases the fastest she has since her first collegiate home run as a freshman, she thought.
Eighty-six career-home runs later, none were perhaps more important than Alo’s two-run shot to right field in the sixth inning on Wednesday. The home run gave OU a 3-2 lead over Florida State on Wednesday night in game two of the national championship series and led to an offensive onslaught that resulted in five runs after the inning.
“It’s the difference in the game,” OU head coach Patty Gasso said of Alo’s home run after its 6-2 win over Florida State. “Without question. … And Jocelyn is always the shot in the arm. She’s the one in everyone’s ear. … We without question needed that. And she was the spark throughout the game, without question.”
Facing Second Team All-American pitcher Kathryn Sandercock, Oklahoma’s offense was struggling at first. She allowed just three hits until the sixth inning, one of which was a home run by senior third baseman Jana Johns.
Sandercock, who forced a ground ball to 49 percent of her opponents this season according to ESPN, was on pace with her imposing statistic, with OU batters grounding out on 9-of-18 plate appearances before the sixth inning.
But, Alo took Sandercock’s ground-ball imposing 66 mph drop ball deep to right field, which started the spark for the Sooners’ offense, where they scored four runs on five hits. Oklahoma didn’t ground out the rest of the game.
“It's hard to be upset with yourself when Jocelyn Alo hits a home run off of you,” Sandercock said. “So, tip your cap. It was a hard pitch to hit. And she hit it hard.”
Alo said she was focused on keeping the offense locked in, reminding the batters of adjustments to make on Sandercock’s pitches. Alo knew senior pitcher Giselle Juarez, who pitched a complete game, was going to keep OU in it, as Juarez didn’t allow a run after the first inning and that she needed the offense to have her back.
Gasso said Alo could easily point fingers at the rest of OU’s offense when she excels and it struggles. But, Alo keeps the Sooners up in spirit and helped them rally back from the 2-1 deficit. Alo wanted the team to pass the torch from one hitter to the next.
“We were just dead silent for awhile,” Gasso said. “Everybody was a little frustrated. … It was definitely Jocelyn Alo that kind of created this energy and everybody just started to step up after her.”
The stage was no stranger to Alo, as her two-out triple Friday night against No. 2 UCLA also provided the spark for OU’s offense when it was losing by three runs.
In both scenarios, Oklahoma was on the brink of elimination, and the best player in the country delivered.
“She is very unfazed by anything,” Gasso said. “And she believes that she can beat any pitcher anytime, any place. And she usually does. And that’s Jocelyn. She’s very prideful in her hitting, and it bleeds into our team. But there are times when it would be real easy to get frustrated. And she doesn’t.
“She trusts in her team and whenever she can spark us we seem to follow that. There’s no words to explain how important she is to this team.”
Now, the Sooners are one win away from their fifth national championship in school history. OU has beaten Oklahoma State, Georgia and James Madison — its three losses this season — multiple times in response to the loss.
Its fourth loss, Florida State, could join the same group in game three at 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon for all the marbles, and OU leaves Wednesday’s game with loads of confidence.
“The momentum is definitely on our side,” Gasso said. “This team felt really good, very excited about how it won. Even though it was late in the game, it’s a victory that puts us in a championship game to win it all. And that’s a big deal for this group.”