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Horning: Curing Sooners' World Series ills requires just one thing, hitting the ball

  • 3 min to read
OU v James Madison Softball

OU’s Lynnsie Elam deflects the ball during the Sooners’ game against James Madison, Thursday at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. (CNHI Sports Photo)

That Oklahoma has knocked the cover off the ball all season doesn’t matter. It just has to hit the ball on Saturday.

The Sooners might get another big outing from another pitcher Saturday and, if you’re a fan of the team, maybe two.

Those outings could come from freshman Nicole May or senior Shannon Saile.

As long as coach Patty Gasso sticks with one of them against Georgia at 11 Saturday morning and one or the other that night, should they get there, there will be no room to second guess.

Three straight games, one of them has delivered.

May was terrific against Washington two Friday’s ago, and Saile was good against the Huskies the next day and even better against James Madison Thursday, despite taking a 4-3 loss.

In a regular world, the three hits she allowed would not have been three, but two, but she was on the bad end of a bad call and that’s how it goes sometimes, and the home runs she allowed would have plated only the women who hit them, not two more.

So there are no bad choices. Go with May and Saile or Saile and May and let one relieve the other if either needs relieving.

If Gasso must go deeper than that, OU could be in trouble. But why waste thoughts on bridges that might not need crossing?

The thing the Sooners must do differently is hit.

How unusual is what happened against James Madison for OU?

• The Sooners won 34 games this season by run-rule, which requires leading by eight after five innings, yet they scored less than half that number in seven against the Dukes.

• They closed the contest going scoreless in four consecutive innings. The last time they went scoreless in four innings, total, came 14 games earlier, April 27, at Baylor.

They last time it happened in consecutive innings in the same game came against Team Mexico on March 20, 32 games prior Thursday, and the last time it happened in consecutive innings not against a national team, in a game that counted, it was 36 games prior, against Kansas City, on March 12.

• The last time they scored three or fewer runs, not against a national team, came last season. In 52 games prior to Thursday, OU did not once fail to score at least four. A year ago, if you can believe it, it happened seven times in 24 games.

Jocelyn Alo was just named player of the year, but Tiare Jennings may be more valuable, batting in front of her, getting on base, making Alo so much harder to pitch around.

• Speaking of Jennings and Alo, the former went 2 for 4 against James Madison and the latter went 1 for 2 and walked twice, yet they were never on base at the same time and Jennings was on base only once when Alo came to the plate, hitting into a controversial double play, the result of Jennings’ ruled interference.

The number of games those two applied less concerted pressure on an opposing pitcher may be zero.

So what the Sooners must do today, again, is hit the ball.

The Nos. 4-7 hitters in the lineup Thursday — Jayda Coleman, Grace Lyons, Nicole Mendes, Lynssie Elam and pinch-hitter Grace Green — went 0 for 13, so they have to hit the ball. But the Nos. 1-3 — Jennings, Alo, Kinzie Hansen — who went a collective 4 for 12, have to hit the ball more, too.

“Really effective rise ball that I think we couldn’t make adjustments on,” said Jennings, complimenting James Madison pitcher Odicci Alexander. “I think that’s what really hurt us in the end, [not] making adjustments.”

Should they face Alexander again, and they might, they’ll have to learn how to lay off rise balls up and out of the zone.

If they don’t face her again, they can’t let what she did to them kill their confidence against pitchers they will face.

“We haven’t really been challenged like that all year. Usually we make adjustments quicker. It’s not like us,” Jennings said. “But I think just moving on, you learn from it.”

Try to, at least.

Gasso talked about having a “completely different approach, attitude, commitment as a team to stay alive,” after Thursday.

No doubt it feels that way.

Yet, what really happened was a great pitcher beat them because that’s what great pitchers sometimes do. The Sooners, though, are a historic offensive team and historic offensive teams hit the ball and that’s what they must do today.

Hard and often.

Do that and attitudes won’t lack, commitment won’t waver.

Just hit the ball.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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