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OU softball: Chickasha's Lynnsie Elam 'a rock behind the plate' for Sooners

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Oklahoma catcher Lynnsie Elam celebrates with teammates during an NCAA regional softball game Sunday against Wisconsin at Marita Hynes Field. The sophomore's solid play behind the plate has helped the OU pitchers succeed during the season. [SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN]
Oklahoma catcher Lynnsie Elam celebrates with teammates during an NCAA regional softball game Sunday against Wisconsin at Marita Hynes Field. The sophomore's solid play behind the plate has helped the OU pitchers succeed during the season. [SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN]

NORMAN — Lynnsie Elam didn’t miss an OU softball camp. Not from seventh grade until she graduated from Chickasha High School.

“I wanted to go here my whole life,” she said. “Of course it’s a dream, but you think, ‘Am I good enough?’”

As Oklahoma faced elimination Sunday against Wisconsin, Elam answered her question the same way she’s done all season. The sophomore catcher erased Wisconsin’s first base runner as she tried to steal second. Two innings later, Elam doubled for one of OU’s four hits.

Elam has started 53 of OU’s 55 games. She’s hitting .291 with 25 RBI, but it’s her glove that’s earned trust. She gobbles up breaking pitches in the dirt — having allowed just four passed balls — while showing off a rocket arm if any runners dare try to advance.

“Oh, man,” pitcher Giselle Juarez said when asked about Elam. “She is a rock behind the plate. I lose words when I want to talk about her. She knows each individual pitcher, and I think that’s something that is so special about her. She knows what we need. She knows when to calm me down. To have that behind the plate makes us pitch with confidence.”

Variations of those words were used by OU pitchers over the last four years to describe Lea Wodach. The former Sooner catcher finished her career with a .992 fielding percentage — the third best in school history.

As Oklahoma entered the 2019 season, coach Patty Gasso knew she had a stacked roster. But if there was one question, it was how would the Sooners replace Wodach behind the plate. Elam had appeared in just 16 games as a freshman.

“That’s where I thought we might have a little bit of a weakness,” Gasso said, “and she’s really turned that into a strength.”

Elam, for the first two weeks of the season, kept telling herself the same thing: “Don’t be nervous. You’ve done this your whole life.”

Elam was a two-time state champion at Chickasha. She hit .491 as a senior with 50 RBI and 23 stolen bases. She piled up All-District, All-Region and All-State honors, but her biggest challenge in high school came 1,300 miles from home in Corona, California.

She knew Southern California was home to softball’s best. So as she looked for a new travel team in the summer after her sophomore year, Elam connected with Marty Tyson — coach of the Corona Angels.

“I loved him from the beginning,” Elam said. “Me and my dad went out there, practiced and he said, ‘Yup, you can be on the team if you want.’”

Elam headed west every other week during the school year, and in the summer she lived with a teammate. There was the initial fear of leaving her dad, but the other girls made her feel welcome in her new home.

“Marty Tyson, without him, I would not have even been close to ready when I came here,” Elam said. “I had to compete with three other catchers to win a starting spot out there. I never had to do that in Oklahoma.”

And when she returned to those familiar OU camps, there was no longer a question of being good enough to play for the program she loved.

“It’s not a dream anymore,” Elam told herself. “It’s something I can do.”

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NORMAN SUPER REGIONAL

Northwestern vs. OU

When: 3 p.m., Friday (ESPNU); 4 p.m., Saturday (ESPN); 2 p.m. Sunday, if necessary, (ESPN)

Where: Marita Hynes Field, Norman

Tickets: Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Tuesday at the OU ticket office (800) 456-4668

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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