2022 WCWS – Can Texas Softball Find Angry Formula Again Against Overpowered Oklahoma?


2022 WCWS - Can Texas Softball Find Angry Formula Again Against Overpowered Oklahoma?

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma — There are two ways to view Saturday’s first game of the Women’s College World Series. One is that the No. 1 seed, a historic dynasty, plays a rowdy unseeded underdog who’s gotten hot at just the right time.

Or more simply: It’s Oklahoma vs. Texas (3 p.m. ET, ABC and ESPN App).

The 55-2 Sooners surely could have expected to be here and put together one of the most dominant seasons in the sport’s history. Meanwhile, the Longhorns went 5-0 at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational in February and fans weren’t exactly booking hotel rooms in Oklahoma City.

But fast forward to June, and the Longhorns face the Sooners in the winners bracket in OKC after a 7-2 win over No. 5 UCLA.

In between, the unthinkable happened: On April 16, Texas beat Oklahoma behind Hailey Dolcini’s arm, ending the Sooners’ 40-game winning streak and a 23-game winning streak against the Longhorns. It wasn’t a panacea for the Texas season; The Longhorns were still dropping all three games in a series against Oklahoma State about a week later, again losing to the Cowgirls in the Big 12 tournament. But in the Seattle Regional and Fayetteville Super Regional, the Longhorns tore 5-2 after string wins over No. 11 Washington and No. 5 Arkansas, the latter a confidence-boosting win in front of a decidedly home crowd.

Sound familiar?

The Longhorns will get a hefty dose of crimson and cream on Saturday when they play defending champions Sooners, just 20 miles from their Normandy campus.

Before the Horns’ first-round game against UCLA, Texas star Janae Jefferson, a four-time All-American, knew what was in store for her team.

“I don’t expect to get a lot of support from the OU fans out here,” she said, before saying that Arkansas Longhorns believers were still rioting. “We will definitely need this support. We are ready.”

History isn’t on the side of the Longhorns either. The Sooners have won five national championships, including last season’s. Texas, on the other hand, has played just six total games in the WCWS, and this is the first since 2013. That was the year of the only previous game between Texas and OU in Oklahoma City, where the Sooners defeated the Longhorns 10-2.

But Dolcini is the reason behind Texas’ long-held hopes for a second win against OU this year. In two starts against the Sooners this season, she has allowed just five runs total, giving up three in a 3-0 loss on April 14 and two more in a 4-2 win two days later.

Two of Oklahoma’s biggest threats, Tiare Jennings and Jocelyn Alo, are unsuccessful in 13 at-bats against Dolcini this year, according to ESPN Stats & Info. And while the Sooners have only had three goals or fewer three times all season, two have been against Dolcini.

“It really attacked her without fear,” Dolcini said. “You have to trust your best stuff to hit their best swings and keep the ball down for a team that hits a lot of long balls.”

It was a remarkable introduction to the Red River Rivalry for Dolcini, a super senior transfer from Fresno State, who faced the Sooners at Burned Orange for the first time in the series.

“It’s not always the best team that wins,” said Texas coach Mike White on Wednesday. “It’s the team that plays best and we played better than them that day. They had their #1 pitcher [Jordy Bahl] throw at us. It was a 0-0 game for a while and we managed to get a big goal at the right time and Hailey served a hell of a game and you have to do that.

With the machine built by coach Patty Gasso, the Sooners don’t need miracles. But they’re also coming from a show in Game 1 that included the return of Bahl, who had been out since May 6 with arm pain.

“We need them, but these two pitchers (Hope Trautwein, 19-1, .51 ERA; and Nicole May, 15-0, .99) crushed it,” Gasso said Thursday. “So it’s tough for teams to put Jordy (21-1, .95, 199 strikeouts in 132⅔ innings) in the mix and have you now train for three different pitchers instead of two.”

Oklahoma great Alo, the sport’s all-time home run leader, says losing in Texas earlier in the season was also a big factor in the Sooners’ run to this point.

“I’ve played with a lot of really special teams,” Alo said on Wednesday. “I’ve been here for five years, so I’ve had my fair share. I think this is the best team I’ve ever been on just because we’re so complete and how close we are. Also, I’ve never seen a pitching staff like this, and they just love throwing us dice when we practice, so I think that does what makes us good. Just sharpen your iron every day. I think I saw this team really start to move in the right direction I think after we lost to Texas and I just saw how we came out of some really tough situations and with grace and passionate about it.

A top team from Texas and a team from Oklahoma on the verge of historic greatness. Two weeks ago, the No. 4 Texas women’s tennis team upset Oklahoma, who went 32-2 and set a program record for wins, for the national title.

Can Texas Softball find the formula for another upset?

“I’ve always said that good pitching makes you hit better, especially in pressure situations, and Hailey was able to pull off one of the best games of her career and this is the way to do it,” White said in the beginning this week. “Hopefully we can do that again sometime.”

Now they get their chance.

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