Sooners head to Starkville this weekend

Finding answers seems like a strange way to phrase what’s going on with Oklahoma softball, but head coach Patty Gasso agrees that’s what has occurred in the first month of the season.

The Sooners, now 17-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the country, aren’t having to ask some questions that might be posed to other schools. But there are still boxes left to be checked for OU as it prepares to head to Mississippi State for a three-day event in Starkville this weekend.

A lot of that comes from Gasso and her ability to read a situation and make the right call. Whether it’s the emergence of freshman Jocelyn Erickson or the timely moments from someone like Sophia Nugent, all the right buttons seemed to be pushed at the right time.

That’s not an accident.

“It’s interesting. We talk a lot about matchups. And I still — the numbers show one thing,” said Gasso when asked by this week. “But sometimes my feel feels something else. And I’ve been frustrated at times like with the Dodgers because they’ll always use metrics. And I’m like how can you do that right here? So I give and I take. Like I know and I understand what’s right, but there are times when I’ll override that.

“So I’m finding what I think some are just regular, everyday whether you’re a good matchup or not you need to be in this lineup. And then we have found others that fit better in certain situations. So we’ll create maybe two or three lineups and we will wait to see what pitcher is going to be thrown and that is the lineup that we’ll use. So some of it is metrics and some of it is feel. It’s a good combination of both.”

OU begins with SE Louisiana (12:30) and MSU (6 p.m.) Friday. Then another game with the Bulldogs at 3 p.m. Saturday, and closing out vs. Omaha at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

*Now we’re starting to see the evolution of leadoff hitter Jayda Coleman. Entering the season, Gasso said the junior was going to bring some power to her hitting. Through the first couple of weekends, though, it hadn’t happened.

Coleman woke up in a hurry. She’s now tied with Erickson for the team lead with five home runs, and Coleman has hit five in the last six games.

“It’s everything and more than I thought it would be,” Gasso said. “She has such a good eye for the ball, such a good hitter, good sense. She likes to ask questions. She likes to give answers when we’re here looking at video so she is really — leads our team by far in walks. Her walk-to-strikeout ratio is almost triple. She’s just such a tough out and she knows it, and I think pitchers know it too.

“So she walks up with a different kind of confidence. Every time she comes up to the plate, the attitude I can see if, ‘There’s no way you’re beating me.’ And when she has that mindset, you don’t beat here. She is the most competitive athlete that I think I’ve ever seen.”

Coleman is hitting .455 with five doubles and nine RBIs, to go with her usual stellar play in centerfield.

*The answer that maybe nobody saw coming so quickly is Erickson. The freshman has earned the trust of her coach and is brimming with confidence with each passing game.

“I like what she’s been doing,” Gasso said. “It’s funny because we talk about matchups and there’s many times where Jocy might not be the right matchup but we keep putting her in and she keeps beating the matchup. She wins that matchup even when it’s not in her favor, by going opposite field … there are a few pitches that can really handcuff her. But she’s been working really hard on finding ways out of that. So I just hope she stays consistent.”

Erickson leads the team with a .568 average with the five home runs and a whopping 25 RBIs. Erickson said her success hasn’t surprised her. This is what she came to OU to do.

*Captain Grace Lyons missed the final two games over the weekend, and it’s TBD about her status for this weekend.

“It’s going to be like a last-minute decision on this,” Gasso said. “I need her to feel better because she’s just not feeling herself. We’ll wait and see. She needs more rest.”

With Lyons out, Gasso went with Tiare Jennings for one game and Avery Hodge for the other. A chance for Hodge to show what she can do.

“I thought Avery played really, really well,” Gasso said. “She made some really good plays. Rangy, good arm. I thought she did a good job. And she put the ball in play. She’s not gonna be the home run hitter.”