Baseball had the Bash Brothers. Now softball has the Smash Sisters.
The Oklahoma Sooners, the number one team in the nation for most of the 2021 season, boast a pair of high-powered teammates who have made their way into the record books, breaking both home run records and windshield by the way.
Leading the way is National Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo, a senior who has led Oklahoma’s explosive offense in 2021. Her 31 home runs (which she broke Saturday in an 8-0 win over Georgia) is a record by program, beating the record she set in 2018 at 30, which equaled former Sooner Lauren Chamberlain, who also reached 30 in 2012 and ’13.
Her teammate Tiare Jennings, a true freshman, hit her 26th home run of the season Thursday during the opening game of the 2021 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, taking her sole possession of second place in the country. . The day before, Jennings had been named the NFCA freshman of the year. It was the first time a show had swept both POY awards, but the Sooners have been making history all season.
Oklahoma focused on longball starting with its first game, hitting an NCAA record of 13 home runs in a UTEP 29-0 loss so epic it even TMZ took note. The Sooners haven’t stopped fighting for the fences since. As of Thursday, OU hitters have thrown a total of 147 times, 44 more than the next best team, Wichita State. His offense also leads the country in every other major offensive category: home runs per game (2.81), batting average (.421), on-base percentage (.507), slugging percentage (.809) and runs: 576 (11.52) per game). average).
“You can’t ignore the Oklahoma bats,” said ESPN analyst Kayla Braud. “They are the best team in the country. And they can have the best offense ever. “
Alo and Jennings have been the headliners, but OU’s offense is dangerous from top to bottom. Sophomore Kinzie Hansen has 21 home runs, and Grace Lyons (14), Lynnsie Elam (12) and Jana Johns (11) have also hit double-digit dinger totals.
“[Opposing pitchers] really having to choose your poison, ”Alo said. “If they don’t throw me, they will have to do it with Kinzie Hansen, Tiare Jennings or Grace Lyons. It’s crazy how much power we have within this team. Even on the bench we have a lot of power. So … good luck with that. “
Will all that offense be enough to lead the Sooners to their fifth national championship?
Despite Jennings’ heroic home runs, Oklahoma (51-3) lost 4-3 in extra innings to underdog James Madison on Thursday in the first round of the Women’s College World Series when Dukes right-hander Oddici Alexander held on to the Sooners to a minimum of three on the season. runs with only six hits. The Sooners struggled to figure out the movement and speed of Alexander’s pitches. It looked like OU was mounting a one-out threat in the bottom of the eighth when Alo came first on a four-pitch walk, but was stranded after back-to-back flyouts.
“Some of our plans were lost,” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said after the game. “You can see it by the way we swing. So we have to find out why. The video will tell us exactly what we need to know. “
The first of those plans is to get Alo a good appearance. He has homered in 29 of OU’s 53 games and has averaged one home run every 5.2 at-bats. Alo is 10 home runs short of the OU and NCAA records for lifetime home runs, 95, held by Chamberlain, a Sooners legend who still lives in the area and even struggled. an OU t-shirt with Alo’s name and number on the back during the Super Regionals in Norman.
“As a home run hitter, I like to watch longball,” Chamberlain said after the Sooners swept Washington in the Super Regional. “It shows how deep the lineup is, how many good players that are not in the lineup who can get off the bench and still hit bombs.”
Alo has been going to the garden regularly since her T-ball days as a child in Hau’ula, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. He can still remember the rush he felt after his first home run over the fence.
“I was like 10 or 11,” he said. “It was on a baseball field and I was playing baseball with the boys.”
Alo was preparing a new bat and hit the first pitch he saw.
“I hit him over center field, totally lost,” he said. “None of the boys had hit one over the fence. I was like, ‘Yes!’ My second at bat, I had another one in left field. So to do it twice in one game, and against the guys, it was really good. “
Alo went on to lead her high school team to three state titles and was named Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year twice. She kept swinging toward the fences.
“I wanted to hit the ball away every time,” Alo said.
After a great freshman year at Oklahoma in 2018, when he hit 30 home runs for the first time, tying Oklahoma’s one-season record set by Sooners legend Lauren Chamberlain and tying the record for the 12 majors of a single season and NCAA DI freshman single. Season record and led the team in WCWS with a .500 batting average, Alo struggled in his sophomore year.
Gasso forced her away from the team and softball for a few weeks. Alo rediscovered his love of the game and the joy of smashing balls over the fence. “I would say that in my second year I was not having fun,” he said. “Now I have fun every day playing softball.”
Like Alo, Jennings wasted no time making his mark in OU, hitting 12 of 13 and hitting five home runs, including three in that season-opening win over UTEP, in his first two college games.
“[Tiare] he is a true student of the game. His power passed very quickly, ”Gasso said. “Once he got here, he really started training hard with our strength coach. I thought she would be a good hitter, but I wasn’t expecting this. “
In addition to his 26 home runs, Jennings leads the nation with 87 RBIs and has the fifth-best batting average in the country (.486).
“She’s a bloody gamer,” her teammate and first-year finalist Jayda Coleman says of Jennings.
After his strong start, Gasso moved Jennings to first place, and he has remained there ever since.
“It doesn’t matter where you hit on this team … everyone’s a great hitter,” Jennings said. “Everyone has your back.”
Before the start of the season, Gasso, now 27 as Oklahoma’s head coach, had his team watch the movie. Gladiator together. “We left them alone in the movie theater to watch it,” Gasso said. “They loved it. They gravitated toward the message and made it their own.”
Gasso had done the same in 2000, and that Sooners team won the program’s first national softball championship. The movie, starring Russell Crowe as a once powerful general forced to become a common gladiator, resonated with Sooners then … and now.
The message “Aren’t you entertained?” The charge served as a rallying cry, as the Sooners beat their foes during the regular season, winning by career rule in 35 of their 53 games, and multiple times in the NCAA tournament. Players continued to watch clips from the movie for motivation.
“Just looking at the strength and determination those gladiators must have, that’s what you want to surround yourself with,” said senior infielder Taylon Snow. “And we are lucky to have so many people on our team who have that mindset and want to get out there, compete and do a job.”
The Sooners will need that Gladiator mentality going forward. The unexpected loss to James Madison leaves them behind on the eight ball in their quest to win a fifth national championship. Oklahoma must win the next four games just to reach the final series, which begins Monday.
Their battle back through the underdog began Saturday against Georgia, which the Sooners won 8-0. They play No. 2 UCLA on Saturday night. If Oklahoma wins that game? Well, it’s a rematch with James Madison.
But Alo & Co. don’t seem so baffled by the prospect of taking on that challenge. After all, the Sooners consider themselves a team of gladiators. Their two previous losses this season, to other WCWS teams, Oklahoma State and Georgia, were each fiercely avenged in the next game.
“The coach always says that iron sharpens iron,” Alo said. “And this group is full of iron.”
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Aimee Crawford is a contributor to Good sport, a media company dedicated to increasing the visibility of women and girls in sport.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.