No matter who starts, Texas pitchers have more to worry about than OU’s Jocelyn Alo at WCWS

Brian Davis
Austin American-Statesman
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Texas starting pitcher Hailey Dolcini delivers to the plate during the Longhorns' win over Arizona in a Women's College World Series game on Sunday in Oklahoma City. In the WCWS final series, Dolcini will face an Oklahoma lineup that has 40 run-rule wins this season.

OKLAHOMA CITY — No matter who Texas starts in the circle Wednesday against No. 1 Oklahoma, Mary Iakopo must manage the situation.

The Longhorns’ catcher started to smile when asked about Sooners slugger Jocelyn Alo, the NCAA’s all-time home run queen. But that’s only because the longtime friends have known each other forever.

“The thing is, with this lineup, everyone can hit the ball as far as she can and hit it out just as often,” Iakopo said. “So, it’s mixing pitches. It’s keeping them on their toes.

“They are a team that makes adjustments, so if you throw the same pitch three at-bats, they’re going to find a way to get on,” she added. “So continue to mix and continue to challenge them. At this point, you just you have to believe that good pitching and good defense can beat a good offense.”

More:How to watch, listen to Texas softball in the 2022 WCWS title series vs. OU

How good is Oklahoma’s lineup? The Sooners (57-3) have 40 run-rule victories in 60 games this season.

Oklahoma's Jocelyn Alo (78) celebrates a home run with teammates in the first inning of the Sooners' 7-2 win against Texas on Saturday. Alo is the NCAA career leader in home runs.

Who might start for Texas softball at the Women's College World Series?

Texas coach Mike White is notoriously close-to-the-vest with his decisions on starting pitchers. Nothing changes going into the Women’s College World Series championship series.

Left-hander Estelle Czech threw a complete-game shutout against Oklahoma State on Monday. Even she was surprised to start the doubleheader nightcap. Asked how her arm felt Tuesday, Czech said, “Oh, it’s good. Still attached, you know?”

Are there any clues based on who started against OU during the regular season?

Texas right-hander Hailey Dolcini allowed three runs on three hits in a 3-0 loss to Oklahoma on April 14. Right-hander Sophia Simpson started the second game of the Big 12 series and allowed four earned runs in four innings. Czech came in to finish off that 9-1 loss.

Then on April 16, the day UT retired Cat Osterman’s jersey, Dolcini got the starting nod again. She allowed just two earned runs on two hits in seven innings. The Horns won 4-2, snapping the Sooners’ 40-game winning streak that dated back to last season.

“I don’t think we really changed anything approach-wise from the first,” Dolcini said Tuesday. “Right out of the gate, the plan was to attack. They’re a lineup one through nine of talented power hitters, and you can't fear them, but you have to respect them.”

Bella Dayton still pumped over wild finish

Texas’ Bella Dayton turned on the jets Monday night the instant she saw the ball fly into the outfield on a critical Oklahoma State throwing error that led to a three-run play.

When Dayton scored, Texas had a 6-5 lead and the hero stood up screaming her lungs out.

Texas outfielder Bella Dayton runs home to score the eventual winning run in the Longhorns' 6-5 triumph over Oklahoma State in the second game of the 2022 Women's College World Series semifinal at USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City on Monday.

“I think it was just over-excitement,” a much calmer Dayton said Tuesday. “Honestly, I’ve never been that excited or pumped for a situation. Yeah, I think that was it. And especially having those teammates that are also over-excited, I think it just makes the adrenaline even go more through the roof.”

Texas recognizes Jocelyn Alo’s popularity

As much as the Horns are worried about pitching to Alo, they’re just as impressed with how she’s elevated the sport’s popularity.

Alo joked that she would put a Do Not Disturb sign on her hotel door. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to be signing 1,000 autographs down at the lobby when I should be in my hotel room resting.”

Texas coach Mike White once tried recruiting Alo to Oregon, but it didn’t work out.

“I’m sure the state of Hawaii is enamored with her, and she would probably run for mayor when she gets done or for office,” White said Tuesday. “This thing is bigger than the game, and she's starting to do that.”

Big spring continues for UT athletics

Texas has already won national titles in men’s indoor track and field, men's golf, women’s tennis and rowing this semester. Softball could be No. 5 as Texas closes in on back-to-back Director’s Cup titles for overall athletic department excellence.

Asked about the women’s titles on campus this spring, second baseman Janae Jefferson said, “I’m just glad it’s our turn, just to go out there and show people that we're just as good as them."

Jefferson said the teams at UT all support each other and all show Texas fight.

“We’re all a big family at Longhorn Nation,” Jefferson said.

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email or follow on Twitter via @BDavisAAS.

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