When Oklahoma hosts the Washington Huskies this weekend, there’s more to the series than just a matchup between two finalists for National Player of the Year.
The battles Husky pitcher Gabbie Plain and Sooner slugger Jocelyn Alo will be must-see TV, but another pair of players stand out for their defensive flash.
Grace Lyons and Sis Bates are two of the best shortstops in the country, saving their teams from plenty of headaches with excellent defense.
Though the teams haven’t met this season, OU head coach Patty Gasso said she’s still very familiar with the work Bates puts in at shortstop.
“I got to work with Sis Bates with USA Softball and she was just a pleasure to work with,” Gasso said during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday. “(She’s) just a gamer, loves to play, great attitude. Very infectious approach.”
But while both Bates and Lyons produce great results in the field, Gasso said they’re still two very different players.
“Sis is real flash. … She can spin around, throw somebody out. She’s got a knack and nose for the game like nobody I’ve seen, with the exception of somebody like Grace Lyons,” Gasso said. “Grace Lyons is more of a blue-collar, kind of journeyman. Not real flashy but makes the plays. Very athletic.
“They have two very different styles with the same result.”
“She can help you win a game just by all of her skills,” Washington head coach Heather Tarr said earlier this year. “Love having Sis Bates on our team for sure.”
OU's freshman pitcher Nicole May said not only does having a great defense behind her settle her in, she thinks it gives pitchers a mental edge heading into big games.
“I say this a lot in my head when I’m pitching, I think nine versus one. There’s one hitter versus nine of us and I’m thinking “OK, good luck. You have to get through our whole defense,' ” she said. “Knowing that you have a really good defense behind you definitely eases any type of nerves that I or (another) pitcher may be feeling. So I think it’s a huge advantage for us as pitchers.”
While Gasso has hailed Lyons for her play in the field before, going as far to say that if Lyons were a guy she would be “making millions and millions of dollars” in Major League Baseball, it’s her exploits at the plate that may give the Sooners the upper hand in this weekend’s shortstop battle.
Totaling 72 hits for the season, Bates enters the weekend just two hits away from setting Washington’s all-time record (she currently sits on 317 hits), and she enters the weekend with a .385 batting average, 32 RBIs and one home run.
Lyons, on the other hand, has shown consistent power in the batter’s box all season.
Hitting .436 in the middle of OU’s lineup, the Sooner shortstop has launched 14 home runs and driven in 50 RBIs on her 61 hits for the year.
Lyons provides an emotional lift to the team too, said teammate Taylon Snow, and could very well exit the weekend recognized as the best shortstop in the country.
“She’s definitely the light of this team, I would say. She always has a smile on her face regardless of any outcome,” said Snow, who played shortstop during her two seasons at Auburn. “But playing on the field with her and seeing the plays she makes, it’s like jaw-dropping. It’s like, 'Dang, that’s my shortstop!' It’s pretty cool.”