'Made differently': Jordy Bahl makes dramatic return for OU softball in WCWS opener
Fans pointed and whispered above OU’s bullpen beyond left field. It was as if the gathered crowd, growing thicker by each pop of the catcher’s mitt, was getting a peek behind the curtain at an exclusive performance.
Sooner pitcher Jordy Bahl, the freshman phenom who had been sidelined with a forearm injury since early May, was getting loose.
It didn’t matter that OU’s bats were heating up in an eventual 13-2 win over Northwestern in the Sooners’ Women’s College World Series opener. For some fans in left field, the Thursday afternoon game became a sideshow to Bahl’s bullpen session.
Soon enough, their whispers became roars shared by fans throughout Hall of Fame Stadium.
With two outs in the fifth inning, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared over the speakers. OU coach Patty Gasso was calling on Bahl to get the last out of the run-rule win. Gasso had said Bahl would pitch at some point in the world series, but no one knew when.
Bahl’s entrance had all the theatrics, and the matching music, of Mariano Rivera coming into close for the Yankees.
“I really wanted her to feel this atmosphere,” Gasso said. “Especially going into Saturday, because her stuff is moving, and it's working.
“To give her that opportunity was gold, and our team responded to it.”
Bahl gave up a pair of hits that led to a Northwestern run, but seeing her back in the circle, prowling with her usual intensity, gave a jolt to Sooner fans like Raygan Thompson.
Thompson, who turns nine on Friday, wore a crimson shirt with Bahl’s name and No. 98 on the back. Thompson, a pitcher herself, walked behind home plate with her mom, Megan, and sister, Willa, to get a closer look at Bahl.
“It was pretty nerve wracking because (Raygan) didn’t think she was gonna be able to see her,” Megan Thompson said. “None of us did.”
Raygan couldn’t stop grinning after seeing Bahl pitch.
“It felt really good,” Raygan said. “I knew she could do it.”
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OU senior Hope Trautwein started in the circle on Thursday. Trautwein, the owner of a miniscule 0.62 ERA after today's win, struck out seven Wildcats in 4 ⅔ innings before handing off to Bahl, OU’s young ace from Papillion, Nebraska, who went 21-1 with a 0.95 ERA.
“Jordy works her butt off, and this setback is not really a setback for her,” Trautwein said. “For her to come into this game and close it out, it was huge for our team.”
Gasso knew what she was doing, and the stir it would cause, when she turned to Bahl.
“She's made differently,” Gasso said. “People see that. You see that. That's why you like this. You like the way she moves around the mound the way she does. You like when she hangs her arm out that way. You like her enthusiasm. You like the way she rips her mask off when she gets what she wants. She's very athletic, and she is extremely focused.
“To see her doing what she's doing today is the biggest victory that we've had thus far this season.”
OU vs. Texas
2 p.m. Saturday at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium (ABC)