Trailing 2-0 with their season and a national championship on the line, Oklahoma softball head coach Patty Gasso gathered her team in the dugout in the fifth inning of Game 2 of the Women’s College World Series Finals. It was a “rally-the-troops” sort of talk with her No. 1. Sooners on the ropes against No. 10 Florida State.
For a team that had taken on a gladiator mentality this season, whatever Gasso said resonated. The Sooners responded with four runs in the top of the sixth inning to take the lead. They never trailed the rest of the series, winning Game 2, 6-2, and Game 3, 5-1, to claim the 2021 national championship on Thursday — their fifth national championship in program history and third in the last five World Series.
Following the game, Gasso and starting pitcher Giselle Juarez gave the glory to God.
“It’s taken a lot of heart, a lot of hard work, and trust in what we’re doing,” Gasso told ESPN following the game. “We give glory to God. We trust that. This team just never quits. They knew they were good. We got through some scary times, but they’ve fought through it.”
Bringing home some 𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐞.
— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) June 10, 2021
Florida State won the first game of the final series on Tuesday, 8-4, and it looked like it had Oklahoma on the ropes in Game 2 — until the big sixth inning.
Gasso said her team was battle-tested after losing a few big games this season, and having to battle back from the loser’s bracket in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think just talking about how we’ve been here before,” Gasso said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall a numerous amount of times.”
The Sooners got back-to-back complete-game performances from Juarez, who was named the Most Outstanding Player. She said she got her strength in both games from God.
“My teammates and God,” she said. “Like, all the glory right now goes to God. He’s been working through this team so much and, I mean, without them I wouldn’t be where I am. They had my back the entire tournament. It’s God and them.”
“All the glory right now goes to God. He’s been working through this team so much.”@OU_Softball pitcher Giselle Juarez is a national champion and giving God the glory on ESPN @ggotgame45 pic.twitter.com/iEIBgR96Uy
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) June 10, 2021
Juarez credited her teammates with helping her receive the Most Outstanding Player honor. The OU defense made several crucial plays in both Games 2 and 3 to save runs and maintain the lead.
Juarez also had to face a hot Florida State offense that showed a propensity to score runs in bunches this season.
“FSU’s a great team. They have great hitters,” Juarez said. “They made me work. They had a fantastic season, so just battling them … (OU shortstop) Grace (Lyons) came up to me every time and was like, ‘Just be you. Have fun. Be at peace. God’s got you.'”
For Gasso, she adds another notch to her storied career. Now in her 27th season, this was the sixth championship game Oklahoma has played in since 2000.
Coaching has become much more than just winning for her, though. There is a culture of faith in God within the program, and multiple players have gotten baptized after being discipled within the program, like senior pitcher Shannon Saile.
“Winning is not what I’m on earth to do, not winning softball games,” Gasso said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2019. “The Lord has put it in my heart to win souls and do it in a way that is not forceful, but more trying to be the light for others through the way I live.”
Because last season was lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gasso said this win was especially sweet, particularly for the seniors like Juarez and Saile, who got to have another season thanks to the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility.
Saile pitched in Game 1 while Juarez was the star of Games 2 and 3.
“What a way to walk out as a super senior, (Juarez) and Shannon Saile, as a national champion,” Gasso said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better for them.”
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