Campbell HS grad Alo lifts Oklahoma softball to Championship series
A mysterious power shortage that had darkened the scoreboard for Oklahoma’s softball team finally found the light with the Sooners facing elimination at the Women’s College World Series on Sunday night. It was a towering two-run homer over the centerfield bleachers from sophomore Jocelyn Alo that ignited top-seeded OU to a 7-3 victory over No. 8-seeded Alabama.
OKLAHOMA CITY (Oklahoma Ahtletics) – A mysterious power shortage that had darkened the scoreboard for Oklahoma’s softball team finally found the light with the Sooners facing elimination at the Women’s College World Series on Sunday night.
It was a towering two-run homer over the centerfield bleachers from sophomore Jocelyn Alo that ignited top-seeded OU to a 7-3 victory over No. 8-seeded Alabama before a crowd of 7,242 at USA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“I came into that at-bat knowing I was not going to be denied again, so I just kind of dug down deep and that happened,” Alo said.
After Alo’s blast, junior centerfielder Nicole Mendes added a line-drive, two-run blast into the right-field bleachers in the sixth inning, which was followed by a solo shot to left-center from freshman shortstop Grace Lyons that set the final margin.
“Once this team gets a spark, it’s really hard to stop us,” Mendes said. “(Alo’s home run) definitely made us a lot more free, kind of got the ball rolling.”
The top-ranked Sooners lead the nation in several offensive categories this season, including home runs per game (1.89). Amazingly, it wasn’t until the fifth inning of their fourth WCWS game when an OU hit finally cleared the outfield wall.
Alo’s home run ball disappeared into the darkness, reportedly cleared a second fence and struck a car.
When informed the ball hit a car, Alo smiled and replied, “Sweet ... It felt effortless. I felt like I was pressing the two at-bats before. I didn’t know how far it went, but off the bat I was like, ‘Yea.’ ”
The Sooners had five hits and three of them were home runs as OU extended its school single-season home run record total to 111.
The season-saving victory means the Sooners (57-4) advance to play No. 2-seeded UCLA (54-6) in the best-of-three championship series that begins with a 6:30 p.m. game on Monday, followed by 7:30 p.m. contests on Tuesday and Wednesday (if necessary).
The WCWS switched to the championship series format in 2005 and this will mark the first time the tournament’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds will play for the national title.
UCLA got to the championship series by outlasting Pac-12 rival Washington (52-9) with a 3-0 victory in 10 innings prior to the OU-Alabama game, which delayed the start of that contest by one hour, 45 minutes.
The Bruins-Huskies game was decided by a walk-off, 3-run homer from two-time National Player of the Year Rachel Garcia.
“We have got to have some crazy fight. I know both teams are a little worn out,” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said of facing UCLA. “There’s two teams that have a chance to win a national championship. There’s no such thing as tired, no such thing as hurt. Nothing like that. You just got to live off of adrenaline and give all you have.”
OU failed to clinch a spot in the championship series earlier Sunday when it was shut out for the first time this season in a 1-0, eight-inning loss to the determined Crimson Tide. That forced an “if necessary” game to be played 45 minutes later.
Despite assembling a record Division I single-season winning streak of 41 games, it marked the second time in three tournament rounds that OU survived an elimination game (the other being against Wisconsin at the NCAA Norman Regional).
“To be honest, Alabama’s one of the best team we’ve played all season,” Gasso said. “There’s no way that team should have been an 8 seed. No, no way. It was just a good, old-fashioned dogfight and may the best team win. This team decided they’re not ready to go home.”
OU lost the first game primarily thanks to stranding eight base runners compared to just two for the Tide.
During the break between games, OU junior leftfielder Falepolima Aviu told her teammates, “OK, we’re not going to let this loss define us.”
In the first contest, OU junior Giselle Juarez (28-2) lost a pitchers’ duel against Alabama freshman Montana Fouts (21-6). Both pitchers scattered four hits and Fouts threw 143 pitches compared to 109 pitches for Juarez.
Gasso opted to start Juarez for the fourth time in four WCWS games. Meanwhile, Alabama coach Patrick Murphy chose to start unbeaten junior right-hander Krystal Gooden, a transfer from Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., who entered with an 11-0 record and a 1.25 ERA.
OU jumped out to 2-0 lead in the first inning of the second game as Sydney Romero opened with a walk and scored on Caleigh Clifton’s double to right-center. Clifton eventually scored on a wild pitch from Goodman.
Tide catcher Reagan Dykes hit a solo home run in the top of the second inning to narrow the deficit to 2-1. One out later, Gasso pulled Juarez and inserted junior right-hander Mariah Lopez (19-1).
“You could see she was a little bit spent,” Gasso said of Juarez, “but we wanted to see if we could get an inning or two out of here because she still would be able to remain in the game … Mariah did a phenomenal job. I am so happy for her because she's really been waiting patiently for her time. This was the biggest game of her career, was how she threw tonight.”