If you’ve watched the Women’s College World Series, you’ve probably seen the Oklahoma softball team holding up four fingers in unison before, during, and after the game, and donning the phrase “B4TL” on T-shirts. No, they’re not reminding everyone of how many national championships their program has.
In fact, as the No. 1 Sooners look to win a fifth national championship, it’s quite the opposite. It has nothing to do with themselves individually, but everything to do with God and others.
At the start of the season, head coach Patty Gasso gathered the team to watch The Gladiator. A Christ-centered team, the players found themselves inspired to study different battles in the Bible during their team chapels.
“We have learned all year about going to battle for the Lord and with the Lord on and off the field, and at the end of the day God gets the glory,” team chaplain Sarah Roberts tweeted. “They know this stage is not a pedestal for them but a platform for God.”
— Sarah L Roberts (@fcatrophywife) June 8, 2021
B4TL — read as “Battle” — was the brainchild of junior infielder Grace Lyons, who came up with the acronym “BATL, which stands for “Boast About The Lord.”
As Roberts put it, they are playing for God and for others. Hence, “4.”
“We learned that every blessing that doesn’t turn in to praise has the potential to turn into pride, so they hold up 4 fingers to give praise because they are playing 4 God and 4 each other,” Roberts tweeted.
— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) June 8, 2021
Redshirt senior pitcher Shannon Saile, who wears No. 4 herself, said the No. 4 has always held significance to her. Before this season, it represented loved ones of hers who have passed away.
“Then when we talked about 4 — “4Him” — it was ironic and even more special to me,” Saile told Sports Spectrum. “4 Him means we are playing for something larger and more than ourselves. We play for God’s glory and for Him to spread into people’s lives.”
She posted on Instagram that within the team, there is “so much love and passion in this circle, our tanks are fueled by our love for Christ and our love for each other.”
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“We truly put God at the center of it all,” she said. “We have been playing this year 4 Him. Make Him the center of it all rather than ourselves. Without God I am nothing. Without my sisters in Christ I am nothing. We play as a team, as a unit going to battle.”
Last season, just a day before what was supposed to be her senior season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saile was baptized in Gasso’s pool by Lyons and Gasso’s husband, Jim.
She told Sports Spectrum about how tight the team bond was and how their shared faith in Jesus was at the center of it. Former teammates Shay Knighten and Falepolima Aviu were instrumental in her walk, she said, and her faith is what helped her get through the uncertainty of last season.
“There’s much more to life than just softball,” Saile said in 2020. “Softball doesn’t define me. I will keep my faith regardless of the cards we are dealt. I have faith I didn’t play my last softball game this past weekend. I hope through Jesus to remain a light in people’s lives through this pandemic.”
A year later, Saile and her teammates are the No. 1 team in the country and playing for a national championship. They’ll have to battle back after losing to Florida State in Game 1, 8-4, on Tuesday night. First pitch for Game 2 is set for 6 p.m. CT Wednesday at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
“God is so, so good,” Saile said. “I get to play my last season with the seniors I came here with to finish it. We have been through so much this year and the previous year for this moment. We have been prepared and battle tested all for moments like this.”
— Oklahoma softball pitcher Shannon Saile gets baptized, trusts Christ amid uncertainty
— INCREASE STORY: Who I Am in Christ – Shay Knighten
— Oklahoma softball’s 40-game winning streak built on foundation of faith
— NEW PODCAST: Shay Knighten – Former Oklahoma Softball Star
— NEW PODCAST: Sarah Roberts – Fellowship of Christian Athletes Area Director