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OU Softball: Sooners' World Series recipe is more of the same

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OU vs Wichita State Softball Sunday

Oklahoma’s Nicole Mendes celebrates after crossing the plate against Wichita State during the Norman Regional at Marita Hynes Field.

Patty Gasso hasn’t been shy when it comes to her team’s abilities this season.

“They understand that they’re good,” the Oklahoma coach has said of her team throughout the year.

The Sooners don’t just know they’re good. They’ve proven it over and over again.

Winning by run rule in 34 of 52 games, outscoring opponents 589-95 and hitting a combined 146 home runs, OU’s offensive firepower has been on display all season.

The Sooners claim five NFCA All-Americans and are led at the plate by the 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in Jocelyn Alo, who’s hitting an amazing .487, slugging a nation’s best 1.135 and has hit a nation’s most 30 home runs.

With all of this, No. 1-ranked and -seeded OU is entering the Women’s College World Series with a great deal of confidence.

The Sooners open inside Oklahoma City’s Hall of Fame Stadium against James Madison at 11 this morning.

“I think it’s very important that you come in with confidence,” Gasso said. “Sometimes you can disrupt confidence with nerves.”

The Sooners have won on big stages this season, but no stage is bigger than Hall of Fame Stadium in June. and some of OU’s most important players will be new to the event.

Catcher Kinzie Hansen, center fielder Jayda Coleman, left fielder Mackenzie Donihoo, second baseman Tiare Jennings — who was named NFCA Freshman of the Year this week — and others will all be playing in their first World Series.

“That’s one thing that I count on my upperclassmen,” Gasso said. “To make sure that everyone has a balanced approach and attack, that we’re not caught up in trying to do things outside our zone.”

While expecting the freshman of the year award Tuesday night, Jennings spoke about how the older players on the team have set the tone for the entire roster.

OU’s juniors and seniors have all played in the World Series and many of them were part of the 2019 team that made it to the championship series before ulitmatley losing to UCLA and finishing national runner-up.

Redshirt senior Nicole Mendes is the only Sooner to be part of a national championship. OU claimed the crown in both 2016 and 2017.

“We’ve got to keep our bodies and our minds sound and calm and play our kind of game,” Gasso said. “That’s really important, that the upperclassmen take control of this and lead us in that direction.”

The pitching staff has also hit its stride in the postseason, with Nicole May and Shannon Saile both throwing complete game victories in last week’s super regional against Washington.

“I truly can tell you I feel extremely confident about this pitching staff right now,” Gasso said. “Have I been able to say that at certain times during the season? Not all the time.”

While some of the Sooners are making their first World Series appearance, it is the first appearance in program history for James Madison.

The Dukes, led by pitcher Odicci Alexander (16-1, 1.14 ERA), who’s struck out 186 batters in 117 innings, beat Missouri, at Columbia, in the super regional round.

Gasso doesn’t want her team to do anything more than it’s been doing.

“We don’t need to try harder,” Gasso said. “We don’t need any magic potion to help us through this. We know what we need to do. It’s just about us executing from this point on.”

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