Tiare Jennings and Jayda Coleman have stolen plenty of headlines for their offensive exploits this season, but fellow freshman Nicole May showed last weekend against Oklahoma State why she’s just as important to the No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
Entering in high-pressure situations in both Game 2 and Game 3 of the Bedlam series, May combined to strike out five of the 20 Cowgirl batters she faced, only allowing a single run and picking up a win and a save as the Sooners clinched their ninth straight Big 12 regular season title.
Unfazed by the pressure packed situations, May said she relished the chance to help her team seal the wins.
“Those were definitely probably the funnest games I’ve ever been a part of because of that adrenaline high,” she said in a Zoom press conference on Wednesday. “Coach says a lot of times and I’ve heard this before that ‘pressure is a privilege,’ so being in that situation, it’s like more fun than it is stressful.
“In that moment I wasn’t worried thinking about ‘Oh, what if this happens, what if if this happens,’ I was just like, ‘This is fun let’s get her out.’ ”
And May has excelled at getting opposing batters out all year long.
Appearing in 19 games this season, the former Gatorade California Softball Player of the Year is 12-1 with a save, striking out 69 batters while only allowing 38 hits in 57.0 innings pitched. Her 1.72 ERA is second on the team, only behind senior Shannon Saile’s 1.04 mark.
In the wake of the Beldam wins, OU head coach Patty Gasso noted how the Sooners likely wouldn’t have been crowned Big 12 regular season champions without the exploits of the freshman right-hander.
May’s performances have only given the coaching staff more confidence that she can deliver in high-pressure situations.
“You hope that a player who’s young can get in those situations,” Gasso said. “You see something different. You see either deer in the headlights, or you see someone that’s like really pitching to win. That knows they’re needed and needs to step up. I felt that from her a couple of times.
“I felt like she settled into a little bit of womanhood under those duress situations she was in. She handled it really, really well. I think all it can do is help her going forward.”
As they’ve continued to make plays on the field, Coleman, Jennings and May have grown to form a tight bond with each other off the field.
“Me, Nicole and Tiare, we’re pretty much all best friends,” Coleman said. “We do everything together. Especially earlier in the fall with COVID, we weren’t really allowed to go to like other people’s houses, so we’d be in our dorms.
“I’m just so glad that they’re in my class, I wouldn’t want any other teammates.”
With the support of her teammates at her back, May has excelled at getting out of jams in her freshman season.
Even when things don’t go to plan, embracing the pressure of the moment has allowed May to shine, she said.
“Definitely a lot of adrenaline pumping through me, I think that’s what makes it fun,” she said. “It kind of sucks, putting yourself into that situation obviously, but I’m just like, I don’t know, I have like that drive to want to get out of it. I don’t know. It’s just really fun.”
Gasso will need May to continue to have fun in the circle over the next couple of weeks.
As the Sooners embark on their postseason run, they’ll need May, Saile and Giselle Juarez to be firing on all cylinders to navigate the road to the Women’s College World Series Championship series.
And if May can continue to deliver, she’ll be able to take some pressure off the seniors Saile and Juarez, and give the Sooners a three-woman rotation to be envied by most in college softball.