'It just breaks me': How Hope Trautwein, OU softball paid tribute to Uvalde shooting victims
NORMAN — Eliahana Cruz Torres was never very far from OU pitcher Hope Trautwein’s mind Friday.
The fourth grader from Uvalde, Texas, was anxious for her last softball game Tuesday night. She couldn’t wait to slip on her uniform and don the eye black. She was anxious about finding out if she made the all-star squad.
Torres never made it.
She was one of 19 children killed Tuesday in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Several of the girls killed in the shooting were softball players.
Trautwein grew up in Pflugerville, Texas, about three hours from Uvalde. She’s in Facebook softball groups with some of the coaches and parents in the town.
“I see myself in those girls,” Trautwein said after throwing a no-hitter in the Sooners’ 8-0 super regional win over Central Florida at Marita Hynes Field. “The Texas softball community … it’s big but it’s very small and it’s very personable.”
Hearing about Torres’ story was particularly touching.
“It just breaks me,” Trautwein said. “It reminds me that I’m part of something bigger. If I’m able to play for those girls and shine a light for their families and the state of Texas and Central Texas and the softball community, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
In the lead-up to Friday’s game, a coach from Uvalde who had coached two of the girls reached out to Gasso via social media.
“If there’s anything we can do to bring joy or hope or just acknowledgement of these young lives and make these families feel better, we’ll do whatever we have to do because this sport has allowed us to do these type of things,” Gasso said. “We have learned that this sport allows us to reach people.”
Gasso and her coaching staff printed up a series of signs featuring pictures of the victims of the shooting in their softball uniforms, and the Sooners’ players before the game wrote messages and prayers for the victims and their families on the border of the posters.
As Jocelyn Alo did her postgame television interview, Alo’s teammates held up the posters in the background.
Alo said she couldn’t help but think of her young cousins, who are about the age of the victims, when she heard about the events.
“It was pretty tough to manage but I’m happy that we’re talking about it and we get to just honor them the rest of the way out,” Alo said.
Gasso wore a heart with “Uvalde” on her visor during the game.
Trautwein (18-1) looked driven in the circle throughout.
Though the temperatures were mild last weekend in regionals, Trautwein had struggled with control the two previous weekends as perspiration affected her grip on the ball.
She walked three and hit one batter Friday but remained mostly in control throughout.
Trautwein credited assistant J.T. Gasso with placing jugs in the dugout for players to dip their arms into to help lower their body temperature, and the “sweat sock” she wore on her right forearm in helping her maintain a grip on her pitches.
“It made all the difference,” Trautwein said.
The no-hitter was Trautwein’s second of the season and the fourth of her career.
“With her offspeed stuff, I think we thought it was faster than it was and then she’d throw something a little harder out of the zone,” Knights coach Cindy Ball-Malone said.
It was the Sooners’ program-record eighth of the season.
“Nobody really squared her up real hard,” Gasso said of Trautwein.
The Sooners (53-2) are now one win away from their sixth consecutive Women’s College World Series appearance.
OU will take on UCF (49-13) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the second game of the best-of-three series.
No. 1 OU vs. No. 16 UCF
NCAA Super Regional at Marita Hynes Field:
Friday: Oklahoma 8, UCF 0
Saturday: 1 p.m., ESPN
x-Sunday: TBD (x-if necessary)
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