When OU coach Patty Gasso went into the locker room after the Sooners’ 4-2 loss at Texas on April 16 in Austin, there was sadness but not devastation.
More than anything, Gasso saw her team’s resolve to finally get the message that the legendary coach had been sending her players for weeks.
“There were no breakdowns in the locker room, whatever,” Gasso said after that loss, which snapped a 40-game winning streak that stretched back to last season’s Women’s College World Series. “It’s understanding that we need to fine-tune a lot of things as we go forward.”
It’d be easy to say OU’s matchup against the Longhorns in Saturday’s 2 pm winners’ bracket game was about revenge for that loss.
It’s far more complex than that, though.
Ahead of Thursday’s 13-2 shellacking of Northwestern in the first round, Gasso said her team’s biggest catalysts for growth have been their losses — the first at Texas and the lone other defeat coming 4-3 to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game on May 14.
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“I think our biggest moments of our season have been our losses and how we’ve responded to them and what we’ve learned from them,” Gasso said. “Because there are times through the season we’ve been complacent and still able to win, and we just kept moving along.
“We needed to get poked a few times, and we responded very well. So I love where we are right now. I feel like we’re trending upwards, and we have been, and everybody is focused and ready to go.”
Sooners star Jocelyn Alo said she could feel the tide turn on OU’s season in the wake of that loss, going from a team that was clearly capable of winning another national championship to one that looked, both internally and externally, like a team that was playing well enough to win the title.
“I think I saw this team really start trending in the right direction, I think, after we lost to Texas,” Alo said. “And I’ve just seen us come out of some really tough spots and handle it with grace and passion.”
Momentum can come screeching to a halt quickly, though, and the Sooners will need to keep their going against the Longhorns and star pitcher Hailey Dolcini.
Dolcini has thrown 39 ⅓ innings in the postseason. OR has played just 34 innings in the tournament, winning four of its six runs by run-rule.
In two starts against OU this season, Dolcini has held the nation’s most potent offense to just five runs — four earned — over 14 innings.
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“We had a good plan going into that week, but I think even that first game, yeah, they got those three runs, but in hindsight, looking at what they’ve done throughout the season, that was a small win in our books already,” Dolcini said. “He was truly attacking them with no fear. You’ve got to trust that your best stuff will beat their best swings and keep the ball down for a team that hits a lot of long balls.”
She threw a complete-game in the Longhorns’ 3-0 loss to open the series in Austin, then allowed just a pair of seventh-inning runs in Texas’ win to close out the series.
“I’ve always said good pitching beats good hitting, especially in pressure situations,” Texas coach Mike White said. “And Hailey was able to put together one of the best games of her career, and that’s the way to do it.
“Hopefully we can repeat it sometime.”
Texas will get their chance Saturday.
Saturday’s game will be the eighth WCWS game between Big 12 opponents and just the third in the second-round winners’ bracket or beyond.
In 2019, the Sooners beat Oklahoma State 6-1 in the second round.
In 2013, OR blasted the Longhorns 10-2 after both teams won their openers.
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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: How does OU softball’s first loss to Texas affect the WCWS rematch?