Now we know what it takes to beat this Oklahoma softball team: a perfect storm.
Well, that and maybe the nation’s best pitcher.
It’s an exercise in futility because it’s over, it happened, it doesn’t much matter any longer and the sequence of events that led to it is bound to not be repeated. Still, it’s kind of breathtaking.
“Kind of got stuck in my glove a little bit,” said OU second baseman Tiare Jennings, the only Sooner in a lineup of big hitters who actually delivered a big hit, a three-run home run, in OU’s Women’s College World Series opener, a 4-3 loss to James Madison.
She was speaking of the ball hit to her left by the Dukes’ Lauren Bernett, leading off the top of the third inning.
Jennings dove to her left, made an amazing play and even got the ball out of her glove seemingly quick enough before tossing it to first baseman Taylon Snow; not quite fast enough to get Bernett in the umpire’s estimation, however, though maybe fast enough to get her if collegiate softball weren’t the last sport on earth not using replay, even when a national championship’s at stake.
Jennings lost maybe a tenth of a second on the glove-to-hand exchange, because that’s all it could have been. You could hardly see it. A blink, maybe less.
But that’s how Bernett reached and that’s why Sooner third baseman Jana Johns’ failing to field Kate Gordon’s sacrifice bunt put two Dukes on the bases, setting the table for Sara Jubas, who timed up the first pitch she saw from Shannon Saile so well, she must have been sitting on it, a changeup.
It left the park and James Madison scored three of its runs.
OU hadn’t committed 20 errors all season, but Johns committed one to let Gordon reach and Bernett was probably out anyway, but the ball got stuck in Jennings’ glove for a microsecond and she didn’t get the call and, voila, in the Sooners’ 53rd game of the season, for the very first time, they never led.
So that happened.
Circumstances that will never be repeated happened. But Odicci Alexander happened, too.
She missed a month of the season to injury, so that’s why she entered credited with only 16 of James Madison’s 39 victories. Still, her numbers tell the story of a fantastic pitcher.
Even in the Colonial Conference, a 1.14 earned run average, a 0.78 WHIP and 186 strikeouts in in 117 innings is pretty great.
Sooner coach Patty Gasso had a couple interesting quotes, one kind of answering the other and together they told the story of OU’s success against Alexander.
“At the plate, some of our plans got lost. You can see by the way we were swinging,” she said. “So we need to figure out why, why did our plans get lost? Were the lights too big for you? Was the speed too fast for you.”
“The break of [her] rise ball just really, the way she throws the pitch, comes on you really fast,” she said. “I know it’s 70 [miles-per-hour], but the way it looks to me, it looked like it’s 77. We just could’t track it.”
Should Patty Gasso ask Patty Gasso why the Sooners lost their way, perhaps she can tell her.
Fun aside, finally, this.
“You could tell that we were having a little bit of a problem at the plate,” Gasso said. “Then it just seemed to rub off into some other areas.”
Perhaps that only meant the Sooners went glum in the dugout. Otherwise, Gasso needs correcting, because if OU had hit the ball, it would have been fine.
Instead, the Sooners scored in only one inning and produced only one swing that scored runs.
The last time that happened this season may be never, because even in their 2-1 victory over Mexico’s national team, the Sooners scored in two different frames, ditto for the night they scored only four and lost to Oklahoma State.
Subas’ shot should have been a solo but wasn’t because a call was blown and a ball was booted and they ran into a pitcher they could barely touch, and it was more about her than them.
No way to win a ball game, either.