Jordy Bahl, grand slams and a run-rule win to remember
No. 1 Oklahoma supplied plenty of highlights on Day 1 of the Women's College World Series, including the return of Jordy Bahl.
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OKLAHOMA CITY — Jordy Bahl made her way to the bullpen and the eyes followed.
Fans of all ages turned away from the Women’s College World Series game they presumably paid money to attend and gathered as close as they could to get a glimpse at college softball’s top freshman, who missed the Sooners’ first two weekends of the postseason with an arm injury.
OU coach Patty Gasso eventually put Bahl in the circle for the Sooners’ Women’s College World Series opener against Northwestern on Thursday, which they won 13-2 in five innings.
“I really wanted her to feel this atmosphere,” Gasso said. “Especially going into Saturday because her stuff is moving, and it's working.”
The Sooners were ahead 13-1 in the top of the fifth and the Wildcats were down to their final out, barring a five-run explosion to avoid invoking the mercy rule, when Bahl arrived.
The freshman gave up a run in her first taste of postseason softball but she preserved the run-rule victory and the moment, which included a standing ovation from the Hall of Fame Stadium crowd as No. 98 took the circle, outweighed the Sooners winning by 11 runs, as opposed to 12.
“She's made differently,” Gasso said. “People see that. You see that. That's why [fans] like this. You like the way she moves around the mound, the way she does. You like when she hangs her arm out that way. You like her enthusiasm. You like the way she rips her mask off when she gets what she wants. She's very athletic, and she is extremely focused.”
Gasso admits she didn’t think Bahl’s moment would come. And the injury, which the program has stayed mostly silent about since it happened in the Sooners’ regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, has put the Sooners’ pitching staff into question.
Oklahoma’s win over Northwestern and the past two weekends of dominant defensive performances would indicate it’s more than capable of winning with just Hope Trautwein and Nicole May.
Adding Bahl back into the mix, however, could be what puts OU over the top in Oklahoma City.
“To see her doing what she's doing today,” Gasso said, “is the biggest victory that we've had thus far this season.”
So about the game.
Oklahoma actually trailed 1-0 after Northwestern’s Rachel Lewis launched a solo shot to left field in the top of the third inning.
The Sooners’ response was swift.
Rylie Boone hit a leadoff double to start the bottom of the third and slammed her hand repeatedly on the dirt near second base in celebration.
“I got you,” Boone yelled to her teammates.
Jana Johns rewarded Boone’s effort with a first-pitch RBI single that plated her teammate. Johns, along with Jayda Coleman and Jocelyn Alo, was then scored on a grand slam from Tiare Jennings to give the Sooners a lead they wouldn’t lose.
OU tacked on one more run, a Boone RBI single, in the inning before exploding for seven more in the bottom of the fourth, fueled by a second grand slam. That time, it was Johns.
“Really proud of them,” Gasso said. “They did a really good job, and Rylie Boone was really the catalyst of all of this. It just kind of bled into everybody else. Everybody else knew, okay, I have got to change. I must change. You started to see what that looked like.”
A few notes:
Jennings and Johns’ home runs marked the first and second grand slams, respectively, OU has hit in the Women’s College World Series.
OU is the second team ever to hit two grand slams in the same World Series game. The first was Washington in 2009 against Georgia.
OU's 13 runs is a program single-game record at the Women's College World Series, while Johns broke the WCWS program record of five RBIs.
Thursday's win marks OU's 39th run-rule victory of the season.
Hope in the circle
Lynnsie Elam offered a bit of adice to Hope Trautwein.
According to the Sooners’ Thursday starting pitcher, Elam told her, “look at the crowd once, and don't look at them again.”
And that’s what she did.
Trautwein, who transferred to OU via North Texas this past offseason, allowed one hit and two runs in 4 2/3 innings worked. Trautwein had five walks but stranded six and struck out seven in her WCWS debut.
“It was big for her,” Gasso said. “I was concerned a little bit because this is her first opportunity. … I thought she handled it like a champ. Not extremely pleased with the five walks, but we got ourselves out of a lot of that. To give up one hit against a team that can swing it is extremely impressive, so I thought she handled herself very, very well.”
Oklahoma will face Texas in a high-stakes Red River Rivalry rematch at 2 p.m. CT Saturday on ABC.
“We know what we're dealing with,” Gasso said. “We know what to work on. We've seen it three times.”
The last time the Sooners faced the Longhorns, Texas won 4-2 to spoil Oklahoma’s bid for a series sweep in Austin.
This is the first time OU and Texas have met in the Women’s College World Series since the Sooners' 10-2 win in five innings over the Longhorns in 2013.