NORMAN — Being on the short end of a run-rule victory is tough enough. Being the victim of a no-hitter is even tougher.
Put them both together and, well, there’s a good chance you’ve just faced this year’s top-ranked, top-seeded Oklahoma softball team.
OU super senior Hope Trautwein tossed her second no-hitter of the season and the fourth of her collegiate career in an 8-0 run-rule triumph over Central Florida on a balmy Friday afternoon in the opening game of the NCAA Norman Super Regional.
A sweaty sellout crowd of 1,659 at Marita Hynes Stadium witnessed the Sooners (53-2) collect their eighth no-hitter this season. All eight have come during run-rule victories.
What transpired in OU’s first-ever meeting against the Knights (49-13) was easily explained, and it’s a downright scary proposition for those who await the Sooners.
“What I feel is happening right now is this team is starting to peak, and that is the good news,” OU Hall of Fame coach Patty Gasso said. “We’ve been kind of waiting. We’ve been playing well. We’re beating teams, but we haven’t been at our best. Our defense is outstanding right now. … the pitching staff is on point … we’re feeling it all around.”
After outscoring teams 37-2 in the Norman Regional last weekend, the defending national champion Sooners now own a 45-2 scoring advantage so far in NCAA postseason play while trying to advance to their 15th Women’s College World Series, seeking their sixth national championship overall and the fourth in the last six tournaments staged.
Trautwein had more walks (three) than strikeouts (two), but still faced only two batters over the minimum. Thanks to her teammates doing their part of her at the plate, Trautwein could get out of the heat after just five innings of work while pushing her season record to 18-1.
OU pitchers have allowed one run or fewer in 46 games this season, shutting out opponents in a program-record 32 contests.
Trautwein’s only flaw were temporary lapses in finding the strike zone. “Control is something that I’m really working on,” said Trautwein, who had two no-hitters at North Texas before transferring to OU last off-season.
The Sooners scored in each of the first three innings against UCF to take an 8-0 lead to reach the run-rule minimum requirement.
NCAA all-time home run queen Jocelyn Alo slugged her 116th career homer and 28th of the season with a three-run shot in the second inning to push the advantage to 6-0. With the roundtripper, Alo broke a tie with Norelle Dickson (2004-07) for the school record for hits, tallying career No. 329. First base was open with two outs when Alo stepped to the plate, but Knights coach Cindy Ball-Malone and starting pitcher Gianna Mancha (23-4) did not want to intentionally walk Alo like so many other opponents have done.
“She’s a good pitcher and I knew she was out there to compete,” Alo said of Mancha. “I didn’t have any sense they were going to try and walk me or anything.”
Nor did Gasso, for the simple fact “They’ve got Tiare Jennings (24 home runs; .390 batting average) after her and grace lyons (19 home runs; .411 BA) after her.”
Six of the eight runs OU scored came with two outs.
“I don’t like to be the last out of the inning, so…,” Alo said her two-out blast. “I’ve just been very comfortable in big moments and it’s a testament to the coaches because we practice like this every day and it’s not just me who’s comfortable in these big moments.”
Gasso smiled and said, “Two-out rallies are big and they create even more momentum.”
Lead-off hitter and centerfielder Jayda Coleman had two of the Sooners’ six hits and finished 2 for 3 with two RBI and two runs scored.
“She’s just this firecracker, sparkler of a person,” Alo said of Coleman. “She’ll get a walk and she’s hyped. She’ll get a base hit and she’s hyped. She gets on base and she’s hyped. It’s been really nice to hit behind her and also to have Tiare behind me.”
Friday marked the 38th run-rule decision in 55 games (.673) for OU, which has now won 109 of its last 115 games (.948) overall and 73 by run-rule (.635).
A victory Saturday at 1 pm against UCF would advance the Sooners to the WCWS in Oklahoma City on June 2-10.
“They’re here to play,” Gasso said of the Knights. “They’re not afraid of the Sooners. You could feel that from the start.”
Ball-Malone admitted she gave her team a no-holds-barred speech in post-game. “We talk about no regrets and my biggest regret is you guys didn’t get to see us play yet,” Ball-Malone said. “But the great thing is we’ve got another one tomorrow.”