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OU softball: 3 takeaways from Sooners' season-opening trip to El Paso

  • 2 min to read
Mendes

Nicole Mendes connects against UTEP during the OU’s 29-0 victory over the Miners Thursday.

Scoring never looked so easy for a Patty Gasso-coached squad.

Oklahoma rolled into El Paso, Texas, on Thursday and left Friday evening with four run-rule victories. The fourth-ranked Sooners were dominant from start to finish, setting the bar high for their 2021 season.

OU posted an NCAA single-game record 13 home runs in its season opener against UTEP on Thursday. The Sooners eventually won 29-0 and beat the Miners again on Friday, 21-2.

OU also got in two games with Abilene Christian. The Sooners shut out the Wildcats in both games, winning 9-0 on Thursday and 11-0 the next.

OU’s competition level will undoubtedly increase from its season-opening trip to the Miner Invitational, which was scrapped together at the last minute because Abilene Christian’s Wildcat Invitational was nixed due to inclement weather.

Here’s three things learned from the Sooners’ first four games:

1. Juarez solid in return: Two-time All-American pitcher Giselle Juarez earned two starts, delivering her first meaningful pitches in a year. Of course, all players are likely to be grateful to return after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 season. But Juarez’s story is different.

She underwent season-ending bicep surgery last spring, cutting her season even shorter, and was limited during the fall.

“It really feels like it’s been 10 years since I’ve seen her pitch,” Gasso said Wednesday. “We did the right thing. The doctors made the right calls and Giselle did the right thing as well.

“You’re going to see her on the mound quite a bit this weekend. She’s ready to go. We’re still going to take it slow and give her considerable rest. But no complaints about what’s hurting her. She looks like she did the last time I saw her.”

Juarez was sharp in her 2021 debut against UTEP, striking out six of the nine batters she faced over three innings and striking out five more of the 10 she faced on Friday against Abilene Christian.

She didn’t give up any hits or runs over six innings in two games. Her quick work of the Wildcats and Miners paved the way for Gasso to go deep into her bullpen.

2. Good for at least one home run: OU junior Grace Lyons has started every game of her college career, which goes back to the 2019 season.

The infielder originally made a name for herself with diving catches against Texas that put her on ESPN’s SportsCenter back-to-back days during OU’s 2019 campaign.

She hit eight home runs that season and five more in OU’s shortened 2020 run. So far in 2021? Lyons has six homers through four games.

She had three against UTEP on Thursday, which ties OU’s single-game record for home runs. She then had one homer in each of OU’s next three outings to spark a productive weekend for the entire squad.

“You could just tell people are just trying to hit good pitches hard,” Lyons said in an interview with Sooner Sports TV following the game. “And no one’s trying to hit home runs, but that’s just kind of the outcome of swinging hard and seeing good pitches.”

3. Breakout freshmen: OU’s freshmen stole the show at times.

Tiare Jennings, a first-year Sooner from San Pedro, California, owns a .923 batting average, 12 hits and five home runs through her first four games.

“[She] just has pure power,” Gasso said. “She has a clean, beautiful swing. She knows the game very well.”

Nicole May, a Pleasanton, California, native, also impressed, earning two wins in the circle, striking out six and allowing three hits over seven innings in two starts.

Jayda Coleman, who hails from The Colony, Texas, finished with seven hits, six RBIs and a home run.

And Jana Johns, who isn’t a freshman but a first-year member of the squad after transferring in from South Carolina, posted a .500 batting average, six hits and two home runs.

• Extra points: OU’s season-opening 29-0 win over UTEP on Thursday marked a program record for largest margin of victory in a season opener. OU’s previous record was an 18-0 win over Our Lady of the Lake in 1980. … OU’s 29 runs didn’t break the school record for most runs in a singe game. That record still belongs to the 2014 Sooners, who put up 35 on Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Feb. 28. … OU is off until Friday, when it will face UTSA and Sam Houston State in a doubleheader in Huntsville, Texas.

Joe Buettner

405-366-3580

Follow me @JoeBuettner

jbuettner@normantranscript.com

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