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Sooners advance to 5th straight WCWS

NORMAN — Softball is a team sport, first and foremost. However, Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said she believes senior Jocelyn Alo also wanted to prove herself worthy individually during the NCAA Norman Super Regional at Marita Hynes Field.

The top-seeded Sooners (50-2) authoritatively marched to their 14th Women’s College World Series appearance by disposing of No. 16-seeded Washington (45-14). The clincher came before an overflow crowd of 1,800 on Saturday with a 9-1, run-rule triumph.

Individually speaking, the matchup featured two of the three finalists for national player of the year in Alo and Huskies senior right-hander Gabbie Plain.

Alo struck out in her first appearance against Plain on Friday, but thereafter went a combined 4 for 4 with two homers, four RBI and two walks. In Saturday’s clincher, Alo went 3 for 3 with a homer, three RBI and one walk.

“I think she had something to prove,” Gasso said of Alo, who will return next year for her super senior season. “Although I don’t think she’s big on awards and things like that, I think she wanted to prove that she’s a pretty dang good hitter against any pitcher anytime. She had a fire. I could feel that about her … and it bleeds into the rest of our team.”

Asked if she indeed had something to prove against Plain, the affable Alo said, “No, not really. I wanted to go back to OKC and if I had gone 0-fer this weekend, I would have been OK with that. I just wanted to play for my team and make it back to Exit 132-A (off Interstate 35 to USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium).”

In handing Plain (32-5) back-to-back losses, the Sooners torched her for 15 hits, 10 runs (nine earned), four walks and only six strikeouts in 10 innings, which included six runs (all earned) on 10 hits in four innings Saturday.

Advantage Alo.

 “We came out here and we did our thing,” Alo said. “There’s nothing more to it. We’re just that good. She (Plain) is a good pitcher, don’t get me wrong. But we’re a good-hitting team, too. I would take us any day.”

In the first nationally televised softball game ever shown on ABC, the Sooners scored in every inning and posted their 34th run-rule victory of the season.

“I could not be more proud of this team, top to bottom,” Gasso said. “Everybody had something to do with the win here. It was really, really fun. … It was like an environment that has never been here before. It took us to another level and probably showcased our program and our team and our university in a wonderful way being on ABC. I hope people enjoyed it, but it was a blast to be a part of.”

Chants of “M-V-P” echoed through the stadium with Alo at the plate.

“Oh, it’s so crazy they (fans) think of me like that,” Alo said. “I’m just Jocelyn at the end of the day. I just play softball, but for them to think that I’m MVP is kind of funny and kind of crazy at the same time.”

Meanwhile, OU pitchers Nicole May (14-1) and Shannon Saile (17-0) combined to scatter 11 hits and three runs (all earned) with 10 strikeouts and just one walk in 12 innings of work against the Huskies.

“Absolutely dominant,” Alo said of May and Saile. “Coach has kind of been harping on them, kind of all week, to trust us (teammates) and all that, but they shoved it right up coach’s you-know-what and showed her, ‘We can do this, coach, and we’re all right.’ I’m just so happy for them and all their success.”

Saile surrendered four hits and one run while striking out five and walking one in five innings on Saturday. “Absolutely threw a gem today,” Gasso said.

If OU’s pitching continues to shine, a fifth national championship awaits.

“Both pitchers this weekend went the way we were hoping, and that is, ‘Don’t ever question me again. Don’t think I can’t get this job done. Give me the ball and let me show you what I can do,’ ” Gasso said. “This group has a different something about them. They’re just blessed. We know we’re blessed. We fight hard for what we get.”

Alo echoed her coach’s sentiments.

“I think it just sends the message we want it all,” Alo said. “We’re ready to go through anyone and everyone.”

OU chased Plain after the first two innings after touching her for four hits and two runs. Plain re-entered in the fourth inning with the Sooners leading 4-0 thanks in part to Jana Johns’ two-run homer to left in the third.

Alo was the first batter Plain faced upon re-entry and Alo promptly deposited Plain’s first pitch into the bleachers in right-center for a two-run homer. Two batters later, catcher Kinzie Hansen hit a solo shot to almost the exact same spot to expand OU’s lead to 7-1.

It was Alo’s 30th homer of the season, which ties her own single-season record she set as a freshman in 2018.

Also sharing the record is former Sooners great Lauren Chamberlain, who was seated in the front row of the stands next to the OU dugout and was wearing Alo’s No. 78 red jersey. Chamberlain hit 30 homers in both her freshman and sophomore seasons (2012-13).

Alo now has 84 career home runs, putting her within 11 of Chamberlain’s all-time NCAA record of 95.

The Sooners have homered in 50 of their 52 games and brought their season total to 146, which is 12 shy of the Division I record set by Hawaii in 2010.

OU will play the winner of the James Madison-Missouri series at newly expanded USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City next week.

The games can be seen on the ESPN family of networks and heard on 107.7 The Franchise in Oklahoma and nationwide on the TuneIn app with OU play-by-play announcer Chris Plank calling the action.

For updates and more information on Oklahoma softball, follow the Sooners on Twitter and Instagram (@OU_Softball) and like Oklahoma Softball on Facebook.

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