Oklahoma’s national title defense truly begins on Friday.
One year after capturing the program’s fifth National Championship, OU head coach Patty Gasso guided her team to a 49-2 record this season, once again earning the top-overall seed in the NCAA Softball Tournament.
The Sooners will have to walk a familiar path back to June glory, as Oklahoma opens regional play at Marita Hynes Field against the Prairie View A&M Panthers (20-28) Friday night.
How to Watch:
- Oklahoma vs Prairie View A&M: Friday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN+
“Prairie View got on a big run of wins and got their way into the tournament,” Gasso noted during her Zoom press conference on Tuesday.
After a slow start, the Panthers won eight of their last 10 games, winning the SWAC Softball Tournament to punch their ticket into the NCAA Tournament.
And while the Panthers had a dream run to get to the Normal Regional, Oklahoma is entering the NCAA Tournament coming off a loss for the first time in over a decade.
The Sooners fell to the Oklahoma State Cowgirls last weekend in the Big 12 Championship, but the loss only serves as more fuel to OU’s fire headed into regional play this weekend.
USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist Jocelyn Alo said practices haven’t been too different this week coming off the defeat, but that the team is locked in and ready to bounce back this weekend.
“I feel like it’s kind of been normal,” Alo said on Tuesday. “Losses are going to happen, we’re not a perfect team. And I’d rather lose now than lose in the next few weeks here. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
“… I think we’re in a really good spot just coming off of that and I would watch out for who’s gonna play us next.”
Now, the Sooners are just focused on playing their best softball of the year.
Gasso has gotten that formula right more often than not, helping OU raise its game for the postseason, as the team responds to Gasso’s own uptick in intensity on the practice field.
“It’s just continuing to motivate but also holding them accountable,” Gasso said. “… I just continue to drive and push them.
“… So I think when they feel me push them a little harder in postseason they know, ‘oh, it’s time for postseason, let’s elevate.’”
As Alo embarks on her last postseason campaign, she said her secret to ensuring she’s playing her best softball at the end of the year is to try and approach every contest with a clear headspace.
“Anyone can turn it on at any time so it doesn’t really matter what you did all season,” Alo said. “So just playing free and not really thinking too much about what’s going to happen, just going with it.”
On top of Prairie View A&M, Texas A&M (29-26) and Minnesota (26-24-1) are also headed to Norman trying to pull the upset this weekend.
All three regional participants trying to unseat the Sooners will hope that Oklahoma has to fight its way through the weekend without true freshman star Jordy Bahl, who is still dealing with soreness.
But regardless of Bahl’s availability, Gasso said she’s more than confident in her entire pitching staff.
“I really like right now where Nicole May and Hope (Trautwein) have been,” Gasso said. “… So we do definitely have options that we’re not afraid of using at all at this time.”
OU’s march back to Oklahoma City will begin on Friday when the Sooners host the Panthers at 6:30 p.m., and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.
Want to join the discussion? Click here to become a member of the AllSooners message board community today!
Follow AllSooners on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest OU news.