It’s possible that no school in the country has a hotter-hitting baseball/softball duo right now than Oklahoma.
At L. Dale Mitchell Park, Sooners first baseman Tyler Hardman is 17th nationally with a .492 batting average and ranks seventh in the country with 23 runs scored. In his last five games, Hardman is hitting a ridiculous .850 — 17-of-20, with five RBIs and 17 runs scored.
And at Marita Hynes Field, OU slugger Jocelyn Alo ranks 14th nationally with a .547 batting average and, of course, leads the nation with 19 home runs. In her last five games, Alo’s batting average is “only” .412 (7-of-11), but she has homered in every game and hit six over the fence during that stretch, with 10 RBIs and seven runs scored.
“It's just a joy to watch,” said Sooners coach Patty Gasso.
No. 1-ranked and undefeated OU (22-0) steps out of NCAA competition when the Sooners host Team Mexico for three exhibition games in Norman this weekend, and Gasso said she’s eager to see how her team responds “when we’re playing against women.”
One thing Gasso won’t do is meddle with Alo’s swing or give her tips.
“No, she’s giving us tips,” Gasso said. “She could be a college hitting coach anywhere she wants right now.”
Gasso and baseball coach Skip Johnson may have stacks of coaching experience and decades of hands-on experience. But when it comes to handling red-hot hitters, the best approach is hands off.
“I just ask him how he’s doing that day or whatever,” said Johnson, who works mainly with OU pitchers. “I don’t say much to ‘em too much. Kind of let those guys do what they do.”
“I have learned through experience,” Gasso said, “the hotter they are, the more you keep your mouth shut, and just let them go. And if they run into a wall where things aren't working, then you might step in and get them back on track.”
Gasso said Alo “right now is the most focused, dedicated, committed athlete I've seen in a long time. She is on a mission. And we all know it, and everyone just stays out of her way. That's it.”
Gasso wasn’t exaggerating about Alo’s current acumen as a hitting coach. The Sooner lineup is loaded with talent — Kinzie Hansen ranks 17th nationally with a .531 batting average, Tiare Jennings is 18th at .528, Jayda Coleman is 22nd at .508; Jennings is third with 14 home runs, Hansen is fourth with 13, and Grace Lyons is ninth with 10 — but Alo continuously offers hitting tips.
“Every time she just sees a little thing in my swing,” said Coleman, “like maybe that I'm a little too closed off on a curveball pitcher, or … she will be like, ‘Hey, I feel like your back shoulder’s dropping,’ or anything like that.
“She just picks up such little things in other people's swing, which is like, incredible just to see just from the naked eye, like, without having to record anything.”
Alo, a senior from Hawaii, said that although she’s matured as a hitter, she’s always had an eye for the game’s finer points.
“I just really like to see the little things,” she said. “Obviously, if you look at the bigger picture, you're gonna see, like, this and whatever. But when you really break stuff down, I think that you can really key into certain things. So I do like to break down hitting and I really like to watch what the pitchers’ tendencies are, what our hitters’ tendencies are, what my tendencies are. And even on my outs that I get, I just like to see how I'm getting out.
“It's really just little things that I'm trying to look at that obviously make the bigger things work.”
Gasso reiterates that Alo is “on a mission,” but she’s not strutting around telling everyone she’s going to break all the home run records — even if that is exactly what she and her bat are threatening to do.
Former Sooner Lauren Chamberlain holds the school and NCAA record with 95 home runs, and Alo currently has 74 (which ranks second in OU history; eight more will put her in the NCAA top 10 all-time). The NCAA single-season mark of 37 (by Arizona’s Laura Espinoza) and the OU single-season mark of 30 (by Alo in 2018 and Lauren Chamberlain in 2012 and 2013) are also within reach for Alo this year.
“I think she knows that she didn't like sitting out last year, and she didn't have the greatest sophomore year,” Gasso said. “And I think with all this time, she's done a phenomenal job of figuring out what she wants and committing to it — and that is what we're watching right now. And watching that is pure greatness. I mean, watching her swing and listening to her talk hitting is something special.”
And if those home run records fall this season — the Sooners have 29 games left on the schedule, plus the postseason — it won’t be because Alo is big and strong and swings the bat hard.
“I’ve prepared,” Alo said. “I don't just, like, roll out of bed and say, ‘Hey, let's hit a couple home runs today. No, I go in, I do my actual work, I know what I need to do.”
And let’s end the suspense right now: Alo said in a video press conference Wednesday that she plans to take advantage of the NCAA’s blanket COVID eligibility waiver and intends to play for a fifth year in 2022.
So if Chamberlain’s home run record — set in just 220 games; Alo has played in 167 so far — doesn’t fall this year, Alo should put it completely out of reach next spring.
“I would say I am on a mission,” Alo said. “But honestly, I don't know what that mission (is). I just, I'm here to just get better. And I was having a talk with coach the other day, and I was like, ‘I want more.’ I just, I think I have more in myself. So just to see what I can get out of these five years … honestly, and just to not take anything for granted. So I'm really just going all in on everything.”