Gasso's Core 5: Tiare Jennings' Calm Kept Oklahoma Steady in 2024

The OU co-captain balanced out the Sooners' locker room as the program hunted history this season.
Jun 6, 2024; Oklahoma City, OK, USA;  Oklahoma Sooners second baseman Tiare Jennings (23) throws to first for an out in the second inning against the Texas Longhorns during game two of the Women's College World Series softball championship finals at Devon Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 6, 2024; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners second baseman Tiare Jennings (23) throws to first for an out in the second inning against the Texas Longhorns during game two of the Women's College World Series softball championship finals at Devon Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports / Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

OKLAHOMA CITY — This generation of Oklahoma was known for its passion. 

Walks were celebrated as hard as home runs and run-saving catches, and Tiare Jennings was no different. 

But the OU co-captain brought something else to the table in 2024 that helped center the Sooners — a sense of calm. 

Her game often did the talking. 

Jennings closed her career third all-time in home runs, trailing only Miami (OH)’s Karli Spaid and Jocelyn Alo, and she could flip a game on an instant. 

She was always expressive, flashing a smile across the infield and nodding in support of her teammates, but her composure off the field helped the Sooners roll through the adversity of chasing a fourth-straight national title. 

“Tiare is just the calm, quiet, level,” OU coach Patty Gasso said after the Sooners closed the season as champions last week. “They all have such big personalities. Then there's a balance of someone like Tiare.

“Tiare and (Kinzie) Hansen have been voted captains, and this is a tough team to be a captain of. They've done a really great job with that.”

The team, led by the most decorated senior class in the history of the sport, had to take a slightly different road to the title in 2024. 


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From 2021-2023, the Sooners lost eight games total. OU only dropped one contest, an early season non-conference game with Baylor, en route to the third consecutive title in 2023. 

OU only lost seven times in 2024, but the Sooners endured a month-long stretch where even the performances in victory failed to live up to the team’s own lofty standards. 

“I think pressure on ourselves. I think for me, that was my biggest (hardship),” Jennings said. “Trying to do everything I can for this team. But in reality I didn't have to do anything at all. I think that was when I was at my best, when there was no expectations on myself. Just to be on this team, just be present, celebrate everyone's successes. That was my biggest struggle this year.”

Jennings herself went through an uncharacteristic slump. 

Heading into the regular season finale, she had hit 2-for-her-last-25.

She made an out in her first at-bat against Oklahoma State, but a double-turned-home run after a review in the sixth inning reignited the senior. 

Throughout the entire postseason, Jennings was on fire, helping the Sooners win the Big 12 Tournament Championship and take home the sport’s biggest prize in Oklahoma City. 

“Going through this post-season, I felt so free, so much fun, no expectations, no pressure,” Jennings said. 

Even in a slump, Gasso was never worried that she’d have to address anything extra with her senior captain. 

“She's just really, really calm,” Gasso said. “She doesn't really get mad at herself she often. That's what I love about her. She's very, very steady. I think that's what makes her great.”

Jennings tackled another challenge in her final season in Norman, too.

Gold Glove shortstop Grace Lyons graduated, leaving a massive hole on the left side of Gasso’s infield. 

Though there was a sizable preseason battle, Jennings won the job to continue to provide championship-level defense behind OU’s pitching staff — even when she wasn’t viewed as the favorite for the job from the outside.

“You guys were asking was who is going to be the next shortstop after Grace Lyons,” Gasso said with a smile last week. “Who is it going to be? I think it's going to be Avery (Hodge). Nobody was really talking too much about Tiare. Tiare did a great job on defense. Everyone talks about her hitting. Our defense was as good as it was last year.”

Jennings’ work isn’t done at Oklahoma. 

She’s slated to return in 2025 and serve on the coaching staff as a graduate assistant. 

She’ll have every professional opportunity sh could desire as well, but Gasso hopes there might be one more massive honor that the legendary Sooner can add to her trophy case in 2028. 

“Man, I really hope that she keeps going,” Gasso said. “I think a few of these (seniors) have great opportunities for be Olympians if they keep going and they stay the course, stay disciplined. 

“That's going to be a phenomenal honor on top of this. What can beat this? An Olympic gold medal. I hope they continue on that way.”


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Ryan Chapman

RYAN CHAPMAN

Ryan is deputy editor at AllSooners and covers a number of sports in and around Norman and Oklahoma City. Working both as a journalist and a sports talk radio host, Ryan has covered the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team, the Oklahoma City Energy and more. Since 2019, Ryan has simultaneously pursued a career as both a writer and a sports talk radio host, working for the Flagship for Oklahoma sports, 107.7 The Franchise, as well as AllSooners.com. Ryan serves as a contributor to The Franchise’s website, TheFranchiseOK.com, which was recognized as having the “Best Website” in 2022 by the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters. Ryan holds an associate’s degree in Journalism from Oklahoma City Community College in Oklahoma City, OK.