OU softball: Giselle Juarez dominant again in win against Wisconsin
NORMAN — Time stalled and Marita Hynes Field finally fell quiet.
The Norman Regional had been reduced to a duel. Two of the 10 National Player of the Year finalists stared each other down — Oklahoma’s Giselle Juarez from the pitching circle, Wisconsin’s Kayla Konwent from the batter’s box.
Konwent, a .465 hitter, had struck out in her first two at-bats. But in the sixth inning, with a runner on first, she represented the tying run as OU clung to a 2-o lead. Juarez had yet to allow a hit, but Konwent just needed to connect.
After two balls, OU pitching coach Jennifer Rocha walked to the circle to calm her ace. The Badgers huddled around Konwent. Hands covered mouths, making sure no plans were revealed.
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“You kinda know that it’s a big moment,” Juarez said, “but I don’t let that overcome me. I focus on my breathing.”
The next pitch was a called strike. Konwent then swung and missed to even the count. Juarez struck her out on the next pitch. Konwent jogged to the dugout with a nod of respect.
Juarez has made dominance her routine. The left-hander threw her third no-hitter of the season in Oklahoma’s 4-0 Saturday win against Wisconsin. She struck out 16 of the 23 batters she faced.
“I think we’re getting spoiled,” coach Patty Gasso said. “She’s thrown two games and we have not given up a hit. When we’re in regionals, that’s unheard of. I think we almost expect it, which isn’t fair. But she lives in that world as well. We’re seeing greatness right now on the mound.”
Juarez has allowed two hits while striking out 58 batters in her last 27 innings — a period spanning five starts. Less than 24 hours before her no-hitter, Juarez pitched three perfect innings in OU’s win against UMBC.
The Sooners (51-2) have not allowed a hit in their first two NCAA Tournament games. They can advance to the super regionals with a win at 1 p.m. Sunday. Yet after the game there was a sense of disappointment from Gasso and her players.
“We looked a little like girls today,” Gasso said. “And they don’t like when I say that. But they know it. They’ll admit it.”
The Sooners struck out seven times, an uncharacteristic amount, as Badger pitchers Haley Hestekin and Kaitlyn Menz kept the game close.
“Individually, we hold ourselves to a high standard,” senior third baseman Sydney Romero said. “We knew that wasn’t our best game.”
But it didn’t matter. Juarez was at it again.