OKLAHOMA CITY — After two games in the Women’s College World Series, Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso admitted her team had no interest in hanging around USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Sooners earned a day of rest after Friday night’s 6-1 victory over Oklahoma State. They, along with UCLA, could kick back Saturday and let the losers bracket trim the remaining field from eight to four.
Gasso has guided her team to the WCWS for the 13th time and is trying to win a third national championship in four years. She tutored her team on how vital a 2-0 start is in the double-elimination format.
“This game puts you in a wonderful place — in the driver’s seat. It gives you a day off, which was their No. 1 motivation, having a day off,” Gasso said Friday night.
A Saturday off is agreeable. They are exceedingly rare throughout a softball season. They usually only come about because of inclement weather or unforeseen defeats.
The Sooners played like a motivated team Friday. The atmosphere was charged surrounding the WCWS edition of Bedlam. A record crowd of 9,820 was on hand to see the Sooners turn back the Cowgirls for the fourth time this season and 24th straight game dating to 2011.
The Sooners (56-3) handled the stage well, jumping on OSU with three runs in the first inning and cruising to one of their most convincing victories this postseason.
“I think this is the first time we’ve had Bedlam on this stage. We knew it was going to be a crazy atmosphere, crazy fans, both sides going at each other,” OU senior second baseman Caleigh Clifton said. “It was just fun.”
But the most important part of getting that day off is getting pitcher Giselle Juarez (28-1) some time to recharge. Gasso might give Mariah Lopez (18-1, 1.00 ERA) the ball Sunday. Lopez pitched 4⅓ innings and held Northwestern to two hits in OU’s Super Regional-clinching victory on May 25.
“I think the amazing thing about this (pitching) staff is any of us can be starters, any of us can be a reliever,” Juarez said.
The depth in the circle, at the plate and in the field has pushed the Sooners into the position they find themselves.
OU will face either Arizona or Alabama — which OU topped 3-2 in its WCWS opener — on Sunday. On another Oklahoma day that was plagued by spring thunderstorms, the tournament was backed up Saturday because of a four-hour rain delay. Just getting the Arizona-Alabama game started late Saturday wasn’t a given because of an NCAA rule that prevents the start of a game after midnight local time.
Those were problems the Sooners didn’t have to deal with.
“They’re going to sleep ’til as long as they want,” Gasso said. “We’ll probably go down to Norman and start working on who we think our next opponent might be, start checking in on some opponents, swing a little bit, come back, just enjoy the day off. That’s the key.”