Patty Gasso doesn’t typically respond to personal messages on social media.
But before Oklahoma’s game against the University of Central Florida Friday in the NCAA Super Regional series, she saw a message she couldn’t ignore.
The message to Gasso was from a young softball coach who knew two of the young girls killed in the Tuesday school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 students and two adults at Robb Elementary School.
“It just affected me and affected this team,” Gasso said. “We knew we needed to respond.”
That’s exactly what they did.
The Sooners coaching staff printed out pictures of four of the victims, all of whom played softball, and the team put those pictures on poster boards. The posters included messages and prayers from the team to the victims, and stayed in the dugout throughout the game. The team also included written reminders on their hats.
Prior to the game, the Sooners’ PA observed a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting. After the game, the team brought the posters onto the field and held them up behind Jocelyn Alo as she was interviewed by ESPN.
“We’re just trying to remember them and just play for them, because it’s so much more than softball,” Alo told ESPN. “I’m sad to say they won’t get the opportunity to play at a level like this.”
Alo, who hit a crucial home run in the second inning of the Sooners’ 8-0 win, said it was a struggle to prepare for the game in the wake of the shooting.
“I am very close with a lot of my younger cousins, and I see my cousins in them,” Alo said. “So for me it was hard to manage, but I know that coach (Gasso) is always going to have my back on stuff like that, and this team is going to have my back on stuff like that. But I’m just happy that we have this platform to talk about things like that, because as big as the softball community is, it’s really small. Whenever girls that play softball, that just happened to be in that, were affected by that, it just hits a little closer to home.
“But I’m happy that we’re talking about it and that we get to honor them the rest of the way out.”
Gasso said team members are focused on doing whatever they can to help people affected by this tragedy.
“If there’s anything that we can do to bring joy or hope or just acknowledgment of young lives and make these families feel better, we’ll do whatever we have to do,” Gasso said. “Because this sport has allowed us to do these kinds of things. Otherwise, we would be like anybody else. But we’re able to do those things and we have learned that this sport allows us to reach people. If that means bringing them some kind of comfort, that’s our goal.”