Photo credit Josh Gateley/OU Athletics
Nine in a row! Oklahoma’s dominance over the Big 12 has been spectacular and there are no signs of them slowing down. The last time a team other than the Sooners won the regular season conference championship the freshmen contributors on this current squad hadn’t even hit middle school. Yet here they are, nine years later, playing key roles in keeping Oklahoma’s championship tradition, and championship streak, alive.
Jayda Coleman has to be the outright hero of the weekend for the Sooners. She led the way in Oklahoma’s 11-8 finale on Sunday to take the Bedlam series and win the outright conference title. Going 1-for-2 from the plate (she was also hit by a pitch), Coleman knocked in three runs in the rubber match game to boost her weekend numbers to six RBIs, one home run, one double, .625 batting average, and nine putouts from centerfield.
Coleman wasn’t the only freshman standout for OU over the weekend though. Tiare Jennings knocked her 23rd home run of the season in the fourth inning on Sunday and ended the afternoon with two RBIs.
Then there’s Nicole May who was the unsung hero of the pitching staff this weekend. With all of the buzz that comes with “G” Juarez and Shannon Saile, it was May who steadied the ship when things seem to be spiraling out of control. She picked up the win in the circle after entering in the bottom of the third, and with the bases loaded, on Sunday afternoon. May quickly racked up the third out of the inning, via strikeout, to leave the runners stranded and then finished the final 4.1 innings of the game. She allowed just three hits and one run while striking out four batters and not issuing any walks. May retired 13 of the 16 batters she faced on Sunday and ended the Bedlam series with one win, one save and six strikeouts. Oklahoma State batters hit just .133 off her over the weekend.
“I don’t know that we would be holding up a trophy without either one of them right now,” Patty Gasso said after Sunday’s game. She was asked directly about Coleman and May but I think you could definitely throw Jennings’ name in there as well. “Really proud of them,” Gass said. “To be able to have these experiences as a freshman and come through over and over is just telling everyone something about what our future is going to look like, which is very bright.”
Bedlam was the type of experience Gasso’s squad needed. Not just for the youngsters but even the seniors and everyone else in between. There was no postseason in 2020 so you have to go all the way back to May of 2019 to get a feel for what it’s like to play at a Super Regional level of intensity. That’s exactly what Stillwater, Oklahoma morphed into this weekend with two Top 10 teams battling it out for a conference crown. Both teams are better just for the experience and now, with the postseason starting on Friday, Gasso is taking a seasoned and proven team on the hunt for another World Series crown.
“It’s a tough environment without question,” Gasso said about playing in Stillwater. “It’s a good environment, though. We needed to feel that. Really, really impressed with our freshmen. Jayda Coleman, Nicole May, just really stepped up big when we needed them. Definitely like veterans out there. I thought our leadership was good along the way. There were times when we were giving up too much on the pitching side. But our team never let that bother them. It didn’t take our momentum away. They did a really good job of staying locked in the whole way through, so still some things we’ve got to fix. But they competed like champions this weekend, absolutely.”