OKLAHOMA CITY— With the Big 12 Championship on the line, Patty Gasso’s No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners delivered again.
Run ruling the Oklahoma State Cowgirls 10-2 on Saturday afternoon at Hall of Fame Stadium, the Sooners defeated their in-state rivals for the third time in eight days to win the Big 12 Championship.
“Team came ready to play,” Gasso said after the game in a Zoom press conference. “They live for moments like these.”
Devoid of the drama from last weekend’s regular season finale in Stillwater, Oklahoma dominated the Cowgirls from the onset, igniting the overwhelmingly pro-OU crowd.
The Oklahoma bats were hot from start to finish, but the Sooners leaned on their defense to immediately snap any foothold the Cowgirls tried to grasp, keeping the momentum firmly with OU.
No play was bigger than Jayda Coleman’s home run robbery in the top of the fifth inning.
After the Cowgirls had hit two solo bombs in three at-bats to cut the OU lead to 6-2, Oklahoma State designated player Haley Busby turned on a pitch that looked destined to sail over the fence.
But Coleman was there, reaching over the wall to record the out.
“I thought our defense was outstanding today,” Gasso said. “Jayda Coleman really killed some momentum at the right time with that big play in the outfield. But also the plays she’s making in front of her are tremendous.”
With the crowd of 3,879 mostly Sooner fans inside Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma struck straight back, pushing the lead back to six runs and firmly into run rule territory with RBI’s from Jocelyn Alo and Tiare Jennings.
“I definitely think this is like our home field,” Alo said after the game. “So in a sense, we kind of have a home field advantage.”
The crowd helped fuel pitcher Shannon Saile’s performance, who got the start instead of Giselle Juarez or Nicole May.
It wasn’t always clean, as Saile had to work out of a pair of nervy situations in the second and third innings.
A trio of singles saw the Cowgirls load the bases in the top of the second inning with just one out before Saile struck out left fielder Chelsea Alexander and forced a pop up out of Kiley Naomi to escape the jam.
An inning later, Saile would again have to navigate a bases-loaded mess. Issuing back-to-back walks with only one out, Saile got catcher Reagan Wright to ground into a double-play to again keep the Cowgirls off the board.
Saile’s ability to remain calm and get out of both innings without surrendering a run will help her as Oklahoma heads into the NCAA Tournament next weekend, Gasso said.
“Very important for her confidence. Very important for that moment in the game where we've got a crush some momentum,” Gasso said. “I felt something different about Shannon today just really cool and calm.”
Saile won’t be the only Sooner headed into next weekend’s regionals with confidence.
Friday’s hero Kinzie Hansen launched another home run in the third inning, the fifth of the tournament for her and her eighth RBI for the weekend.
“At the plate, the ball’s getting bigger,” Hansen said after the game. “I see the pitches that I want and it's just, it feels good.”
Hansen’s heroics in the batter’s box saw her named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big 12 Tournament.
“Kinzie Hansen made a statement this weekend, absolutely,” Gasso said. “I hope people were listening. Or maybe I’m hoping they’re not.”
Alo would end the game in the bottom of the sixth as her two-out single scored Taylon Snow and Jana Johns to complete the run rule.
Gasso said she was pleased with how the team was content to take what the defense was giving them today, and not getting hung up on just hitting home runs.
“They understand the game. The worrisome part at times is are we trying to be superheroes? And I think Jocelyn Alo showed that today,” Gasso said. “I really loved her last at bat… I just love the way it finished and walked it off not with a ball over the fence but a hard-hit ball up the middle.”
After capturing both the regular season and postseason Big 12 crowns, the Oklahoma Sooners head onto the NCAA Tournament where they hope to be the No. 1-overall seed. The Sooners will learn their fate and the three other teams they will be hosting in next weekend’s regional during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, airing Sunday night on ESPN2 at 8 p.m.
“I just thought it was a great team effort all the way around and it’s leading us to a good place as we go forward,” Gasso said.