WCWS 2022 – Oklahoma softball’s ‘Avalanche’ brings Sooners to the brink of history
OKLAHOMA CITY – The door opened and a group of stunned players and their head coach walked through the door beneath the venue of Wednesday night’s Women’s World Cup.
Texas pitcher Hailey Dolcini sat among his teammates, leaning toward the microphone and trying to explain what had happened. One warrior in the circle helped take her team to the biggest stage in softball with a quality fast ball and a willpower she couldn’t find a word for. With no answer as to how Oklahoma could go four points ahead in the first inning and score in every second after that, the World University Women’s Club a record six home runs to win. 16-1 victory in the opening game of the championship series.
Catcher Mary Iakopo thinks it’s actually pretty simple.
“They were really nice,” she said.
All coach Mike White could do was shake his head as Dolcini, Iakopo and first team player Bella Dayton ended their time with the media and left. White then stayed and made some interpretations of his own. It was tough going out in front of a crowd of 12,234, mostly Oklahoma fans, and competing against a championship-experienced Oklahoma team, which won last season, he said.
To fall behind like that, in front of such a lineup…
“It was like an avalanche,” White said. “Once it starts working, it starts collecting steam and it’s very difficult to stop it.”
They could have survived Jocelyn Alo’s two runs at the end of the first game. After all, she’s the queen of indoor running with 122 trips around the bases. It happened. But the chain of events she sets out is too much to overcome.
It’s reminiscent of what Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso told ESPN a month ago. She explains there’s something about Alo’s home runs that people don’t understand on a stat sheet.
“She, in one swing, can change the outcome of the game, the direction of the game,” says Gasso. “Because it’s such a powerful swing, and when the ball is hit, it goes in a loooong direction. So the momentum just comes in your dig too fast and too strong. Just the presence of her on the disc changes the dynamics of the game.As soon as there’s that contact, everything changes – crowds explode, tunnels explode and everything changes in a split second.
“If we were behind, we’re leading now. If there’s no score, we’re up three. And it happens in one swing.”
For a moment it’s just Hello. Then there’s Taylon Snow. Then there’s Jana Johns. Then there’s Tiare Jennings. Just keep repeating until the casual observer is no longer wondering if this is the best college softball team of all time it has been witnessed.
Everyone loves Alo, and rightly so. She hit the WCWS record five home runs. She drove in a WCWS-record 13 RBI. But look at what happened after her game – after the fans took their seats, after they backed off the nets that surrounded the home field, trying to record history on their phones.
Two innings after Alo’s first home run, Jennings was hit by a three-round bomb of his own.
Two pitches after Alo’s second home run in the fifth inning, Jennings hit a solo.
Jennings tied Alo’s home run of WCWS and RBI logs, and reminded everyone that she had some juice of her own.
When asked if they are the best power hit duo of all time, Alo said practically: “Yes, I think we are.”
Who would argue with that? Alo is just five stages home from Jennings this season. And Jennings really has the edge in RBIs (86-85).
And if those two aren’t the headlines, someone else is. Grace Lyons, Jayda Coleman and Jordy Bahl are also American. Gasso, who has always been ashamed of his wealth, thinks people don’t talk about Coleman being a great top hunter. Her base percentage is an eye-catching .589. In allowing Jennings to stand behind Alo, Gasso said, “That made them a dynamic duo.”
Grace Green is an unknown relative in the sport. She’s not a starter and she went into Wednesday with just 28 goals this season. But she came on from the bench and drove in the last place of the fourth inning.
“It’s hard to get into this squad,” Gasso said. “I have a lot of potential appointees, but that’s Jocey’s position, so where do I feed the other players?”
Good question. There is always next year.
But first, there’s Thursday night’s rematch to consider. A win would give Oklahoma consecutive national championships. A loss will force a win-lose game on Friday.
Dolcini, Iakopo and Dayton say they have to play game 1. Let it go. Go ahead.
That is easier said than done. A 15-match loss to a arch-rival tends to leave a mark.
“They’ll come up with some numbers, four or five,” White said. “We have to find a way to score seven. That’s how you know it.”
Sure, but is seven runs enough?
Remember, Oklahoma is the Division I leader in batting averages and home runs. It’s a team that has only lost three times all season. Forty of its 58 wins have come by running rules. (There were no running rules in the championship series, so they played all seven innings.)
Maybe you get lucky and Alo hits a solo home run and that’s it. But can you stop Jennings? Can you stop Lyons and Coleman and anyone else from deciding to step up that night? It was a mole, except for the moles that were holding metal bats.
They are really good.
They are like an avalanche, and the best thing you can do when it comes your way is to hope not to get in the way.