NORMAN — Oklahoma now returns to the scene of the crime.
In the rain, well after midnight, Alabama did what nobody thought it might do only two nights earlier. Almost a year later, the Sooners have earned another chance.
Another a dominant run-rule victory, their fourth in five postseason games, this one an 8-0 whitewashing of Texas A&M that included a pair of home runs from Shelby Pendley, because somebody has to hit them in so bruising a lineup, has OU headed back to Hall of Fame Stadium and the Women’s College World Series.
The Sooners are the nation’s No. 1 team, the big bracket’s No. 1 seed and losers of only four games in 56 tries.
Now, pressure is sure to arrive. It’s better to be best, yes, but it’s no picnic. Anything can go wrong and everything can crater, right?
Not so fast.
Their super-regional clinching victory in the bag, the Sooners, after playing in front of another packed house at Marita Hynes Field, spoke about it (and other things).
Pendley, who hit like the conference player of the year she was recently named, explained that she’d been in Moore when the Tornado struck.
Coach Patty Gasso, a press conference no-show the night before when she rushed off to watch her son graduate from Norman North, explained that she’d seen a change in Ricketts beginning Thursday night, when the team sat down with the softball team of Sydney Angle, a 9-year-old who died Monday at Plaza Towers Elementary.
Ricketts, who had just tossed a three-hit shutout while going 2 for 3 at the plate with a pair of RBIs, who often speaks so quickly you wonder how she can follow her own train of thought, slowed down long enough to say something profound.
“Usually we say that we play for the name on the front of the jersey,” she said, “and that name has a different meaning to it now after this past week.”
The day before, it seemed and felt apparent, that there was more going on than a mere postseason softball game between Sooners and Aggies. Saturday, the connection was made more clear.
Gasso was asked if there’s more gravity to her team’s season than there was even a week ago.
“There is, there’s no question,” she said. “We’ve been moved quite a bit by a lot of people and all we want to do is move them back.”
Only, there’s a twist, for the season is now heavier and lighter at the same time.
“I saw Keilani Ricketts change over the rain out (Thursday) when we were able to spend some time with that ‘Bring it’ team,” Gasso said, signifying Angle’s team. “I saw Keilani just in a different place and just recognizing that people are just so excited to see her and that kids who probably haven’t had much joy the last couple of days were feeling it around her and that’s something important to her and I think it just took a lot of pressure off.”
Gasso reported that Angle’s family had been “desperately looking for a picture that Sydney took with Keilani at the World (Cup) game, to try to bring it to show Keilani that they had met.”
Also, Sydney’s sister, Casey, had received instruction from Sooner catcher Jessica Shults.
It’s a beautiful thing.
They’re the best team in the country and have been all season long, clearly more imposing and with better pitching than the 2000 Sooners, who claimed the program’s only national championship.
Pressure should be intense. But spend some time with a group of children who love softball, that have recently had their hearts broken but that nonetheless reveled in meeting their favorite softball team, and it can be a freeing life lesson.
It’s easy to say it made a difference for Pendley after she hit two home runs, but she was chasing pitches Friday and found patience Saturday. Maybe getting a big picture lesson made that an easier transition.
As for Ricketts, who’s been terrific all season, look at what she’s done at the plate, where she went 4 for 6 with a home run and six RBIs in two games against the Aggies.
It’s also interesting how OU committed no errors in two games against A&M.
For a team that should feel the weight of the world on its shoulders, it’s playing loose as a goose.
Up to now, the Sooner story has been about the dominance, about the nation’s best pitcher and a lineup that offers not a breath of rest.
The story is changing.
It’s becoming bigger, better and lighter, too. How can so dominant a team play with the joy of a group just happy to be here, there, anywhere, together?
OU had help.
Another team taught it how to play.
NORMAN — Oklahoma now returns to the scene of the crime.
Sparking the flame
Sequoyah High School’s Justin Hooper looking to lead this year
Last season was Justin’s last chance to play alongside Cody at Sequoyah High School.
Justin had to battle to win the Indians starting tailback. The coaching staff did not know who was going to be the Indians starting running back coming into fall practice.
NSU teams compete in fishing tournament
Three teams from Northeastern State University’s Bass Fishing Team competed in the Fishing League Worldwide College Fishing Tournament on Grand Lake in Grove on Saturday, June 21.
Johnson, East win easily at All-State
Jake Johnson was able to hold off Lawton MacArthur’s Trent Meisel at the Class 5A state tournament in May. On Monday at the All-State tournament at Cherokee Hills Golf Club, Johnson had it much easier against Meisel.
Hometown brothers team up for RiverHawks football
Northeastern State’s football program will include a pair of hometown brothers for the 2014 season.
Mason McMillan returns for his sophomore season, and this year he will be reunited with his younger brother, Kourtland. The brothers graduated from Tahlequah High School – Mason in 2013, followed by Kourtland in 2014. At Tahlequah, Mason and Kourtland shared the gridiron for one season.
Yurcich ready for second season
With the 2014 season on the brink, Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State University football offensive coordinator, is ready for his second year at the helm after coaching a powerful offensive squad a year ago.
Back on the line
RiverHawks’ Ethan James returns to the line healthy and ready for 2014
RiverHawks offensive lineman Ethan James will enter the 2014 season healthy – something the team, and James, were not in 2013.
Sooners shifting several positions
Experience comes from encountering the same things in the same ways over and over again. Oklahoma’s Geneo Grissom and Julian Wilson have that at defensive end and nickleback in bunches.
However, both will be seeing new things when practice begins. Grissom is moving to outside linebacker. Wilson will be getting a look at cornerback as his senior season begins
Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat
The NCAA once cracked down on colleges that went too far luring top prospects, then it targeted teams that lathered players with special treatment. That was until the NCAA's get-tough approach backfired, rendering it ineffective and creating an opportunity for those who want to play dirty.
Media Week: Change is coming
Changes are coming to college athletics.
That was the theme of the state of the conference speech by Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby on the first day of Big 12 Football Media Days.
Cowboy quandary: OSU defense trying to replace seven starters
A year after the best defensive team in the Mike Gundy era, the questions now surround how those few returning starters and second-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer can maintain that high level of efficiency.
- More Sports Headlines
- Sparking the flame