Alo's chase for history stalled
Oklahoma's star hitter is one home run away from setting a new NCAA career home runs record. The only issue? No team wants to be the one to give it up.
NORMAN, Okla. — Jocelyn Alo, college softball’s co-home run queen who’s finishing her final season at Oklahoma, has an opportunity Lauren Chamberlain, the former OU softball star who currently shares the NCAA career home runs record with Alo, was never afforded.
Alo and the Sooners open their home slate Monday, March 7, against Minnesota,presenting the native Hawaiian with a chance to break Chamberlain’s previous record of 95 career home runs in front of what’s expected to be a sold-out Marita Hynes Field.
Chamberlain’s record-setting homer came in front of a few hundred spectators in Denton, Texas, when the Sooners visited North Texas on April 30, 2015. Despite not having the home stage Alo will hope to enjoy Monday for the home run, Chamberlain experienced what Alo is currently working through as she chases history.
No one will pitch to her.
Since Alo tied Chamberlain’s record on Feb. 20 against Texas State, she's drawn 10 walks over five games. Prior to matching the record, she drew five over 10.
Chamberlain was walked 12 times in OU’s next five games after she matched the then-record of 94 homers, finally breaking the mark in her sixth outing since tying history in a five-inning win over Baylor.
The program’s déjà vu has made for an aggravating stretch for Oklahoma softball.
OU’s explosive offense has slowed down considerably from its string of run-rule wins to start the year. The approach OU’s opposing pitchers have taken against Alo has forced longtime Oklahoma head softball coach Patty Gasso to tinker with her batting order.
Alo, typically third in OU’s lineup, replaced sophomore Tiare Jennings in the leadoff spot in the Sooners’ last game against Utah.
“If people are going to continue to walk us, then it makes sense to me to put Jocy in the leadoff spot,” Gasso said, “so Tiare could come in and turn that into something big for us.”
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Utah's Sydney Sandez struck out Alo in her first at-bat, leaving Gasso to assume the Utes weren't going to shy from the possibility of surrendering Alo's historic home run.
Utah’s pitchers, coached by former OU star Paige Parker, opted to take its small victory and not throw to Alo the rest of the way. The Sooners overcame the Utes’ decision with a 2-1 win.
“It's kind of a guessing game,” Gasso said. “But I don't need to be in the business of guessing what another team [is going to do].”
Alo isn’t likely to retain her leadoff spot as Gasso tries to get back to what makes her team most comfortable and confident, rather than catering to her opponents.
Opposing pitchers’ treatment of Alo has opened Gasso to ponder what she would do against an opposing hitter, seeking the same milestone as Alo.
“I'd like to give the ball to Jordy Bahl and say get after the best hitter in the country. Let's see what happens,” Gasso said. “... I want to see my pitcher go after the best hitter and that's gonna make my pitcher better. That's how I would look at it. But again, if I'm on the other side, I don't know. I don't know. I guess we're all a little bit surprised, slash, frustrated.”
If the record doesn’t come Monday, Alo’s next chance to make history will come in her home state. The Sooners are scheduled to compete in the Rainbow Wahine Classic this weekend in Honolulu.
Wherever it comes, OU is simply ready to celebrate Alo’s achievement and move on with its title defense.
“Once we get there,” Gasso said, “I think you'll see her take off.”
The game is set to start a 4 p.m. and will broadcast on Bally Sports Oklahoma on tape delay at 5 p.m. Monday.
Well, as aggravating as a 15-0 start and a No. 1 ranking in every major poll can be.