All eyes will be on the top-ranked Oklahoma softball team as the NCAA Tournament gets underway this week, and especially on standout freshman pitcher Jordy Bahl. Bahl, however, will keep her eyes on the Lord, as she says she performs for an “audience of One.”
Bahl is the ace of a staff that leads the country in team ERA at 0.81 runs allowed a game. The Sooners also lead the country in team batting average (.367). Thus, OU enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed looking to defend its national title. The Sooners (49-2) open the NCAA regionals at home on Friday by facing Prairie View A&M (20-27). Minnesota (26-24-1) and Texas A&M (29-26) will meet in the other regional matchup.
— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) May 15, 2022
Those teams will have to face Bahl — if she recovers from arm soreness in time. She missed the Big 12 Tournament last weekend, and earlier this week OU head coach Patty Gasso said Bahl is “day-to-day.”
Bahl leads her team with 199 strikeouts and 132.1 innings pitched, and she’s reached double-digit strikeouts in six games this season. Her 0.95 ERA ranks fifth in the nation, and second on her team behind Hope Trautwein (0.31 ERA). Bahl was the only freshman among the 10 finalists for USA Softball College Player of the Year, though she was not among the final three announced Wednesday.
It’s been an impressive year for Bahl to say the least, and OU is grateful to have her. Just a couple of years ago, Oklahoma wasn’t in Bahl’s plans. The Papillion, Nebraska, native had been committed to the University of Nebraska since she was in the eighth grade. But she eventually decided to reopen her recruitment and instantly caught Gasso’s attention.
“This is a whole other level of greatness. It’s just her way of doing it. You just have to watch it and then get over [some perceived arrogance] quickly and go, ‘This is elite status right now,'” Gasso recently told ESPN about her first impression of Bahl.
When Bahl reopened her recruitment, she became the No. 1 prospect for the class of 2021. She won back-to-back Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year awards, and in 276 high school innings pitched, she only allowed 54 hits while striking out 615 batters. She also hit 42 home runs.
Bahl’s talent caught the attention of all the top schools in the nation, but she landed on OU because of the Sooners’ culture.
“I ultimately chose Oklahoma because I thought it was a program I would fit in with as far as things they value. They are big on family, playing for each other and putting God in the spotlight. They are gritty and play with fire,” Bahl told Softball America after her commitment.
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Her decision to commit to Oklahoma came after time in prayer and time with some of the team at church.
“I asked God several times to lead me to where He wanted me to go, and for His will to be done,” Bahl told FloSoftball in 2019. “On Sunday morning of my visit (to Oklahoma), my family attended a church service with some of the players, and it was during the sermon where I felt like He was telling me, ‘This is it.'”
Led by Gasso and many of the other players, Bahl feels free to express her faith within the team and on social media. On both her Twitter and Instagram profiles, she writes “AO1” (which stands for “audience of One”) followed by a cross symbol. This past December, she wrote about her identity no longer being in softball.
“Oh softball. You’re not who I am. You’re something I do,” she wrote. “You’re an incredible gift that God has blessed me with. You have introduced me to some of the most amazing, God fearing people I know. After years of my identity being lost in you, you have showed me the way to my real purpose which is found in my Creator. The chains are broken. Thank you softball for the journey you’re taking me on, and thank you God for being present in every step along the way, before I even knew you were there.”
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Now, as Bahl prepares to play in her first NCAA postseason, she keeps her focus on God and the gifts He has given her.
“Going to war with these women is great, but who we do it for is even greater. Thankful for the talents, work ethics, and competitive spirits that God chose to gift us with,” Bahl said in an Instagram post in February.
The Sooners begin their title defense Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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