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OU softball: Giselle Juarez fits lefty mold of past Sooner aces

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Oklahoma pitcher Giselle Juarez transferred from Arizona State during the offseason. She is one of the top pitchers in the nation, throwing two perfect games so far this spring. [AP Photo/Casey Brooke Lawson]
Oklahoma pitcher Giselle Juarez transferred from Arizona State during the offseason. She is one of the top pitchers in the nation, throwing two perfect games so far this spring. [AP Photo/Casey Brooke Lawson]

NORMAN — Patty Gasso couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The NCAA transfer portal might be a maze of names, but Giselle Juarez was one that stood out.

Still, she did a double take and turned to her son and assistant coach JT Gasso.

“Are you kidding me?” she said. “Give me her number.”

It was a fruitful call for Oklahoma softball. Juarez is 20-0 with a 1.40 ERA in her first season with the Sooners. She’s anchoring one of the top rotations in the country and will lead No. 1-ranked OU into a Bedlam battle with No. 13 OSU this weekend.

Juarez is the latest in a legendary line of left-handed OU aces. She rattles off the names with ease. There’s Paige Parker and Paige Lowary. Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne.

And that’s just in the last decade. Behind Ricketts and Parker on the program’s all-time wins list are Jennifer Stewart, Kami Keiter, Jill Most and D.J. Mathis. All southpaws.

“I obviously know the lefty legacy they have,” Juarez said. “While trying to uphold that, I’m also trying to make my own name.”

That much she had done before stepping foot in Norman. The Sooners certainly knew about her.

Juarez, then a sophomore at Arizona State, lost a 2-0 duel to Parker and OU in last year’s Women’s College World Series. Juarez was an All-American for the Sun Devils, going 26-6 with a 1.22 ERA.

Now the Glendale, Arizona, native is pitching for the team that ousted her former squad. Juarez was granted a release from Arizona State and became immediately eligible to pitch as a junior at OU. She’s thrown two perfect games for the Sooners and has been named Big 12 Pitcher of the Week five times.

She doesn’t discuss why she transferred, preferring to deal in the present over the past.

“Everyone says this place is different, but you really don’t understand that,” Juarez said. “It’s a real testimony, especially coming from an outside perspective. I’ve never been on a more selfless team and one that truly loves each other.”

Sometimes courting transfers is like going through another recruiting process, but Gasso laughs and calls Juarez’s decision a “gift from God.”

“Giselle is someone that we needed desperately,” Gasso said.

Oklahoma also landed Florida International’s Shannon Saile on the transfer market. Juarez, Saile and junior Mariah Lopez rank top-10 nationally in strikeouts per seven innings. OU’s team ERA of 1.21 trails only UCLA.

Juarez took time to adjust after not arriving in Norman until a month before the season started, but Gasso and pitching coach Jennifer Rocha see a more refined pitcher now. One who looks comfortable not only in the circle, but also with new teammates in a new place.

“Something makes me feel like she was hoping that we might call her,” Gasso said. “It was just a match made to find each other.”

Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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