'It's a game of inches': How Jayda Coleman's epic catches paved way for OU softball title

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Jayda Coleman saw the ball off the bat and sprinted backward, knowing it would take a big effort for the out. 

Coleman had just made a running catch one batter before, but with the ensuing Texas batter, the Oklahoma outfielder made an even better one.

"I was a little sick to my stomach when I saw it getting some distance," OU softball coach Patty Gasso said. "(But) if Jayda can get up on the wall and reach, she's going to catch it. And I know that about her, she's an incredible athlete."

With a runner on third base and two outs, Texas’ Courtney Day hammered a ball to left-center that many fans at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium were expecting to leave the playing field.

It would have, had Coleman, an all-district volleyball player in high school, not leaped and reached nearly two-feet past the 6-foot wall to snatch the home run out of the air for the final out of the inning.

Coleman’s pair of catches were just in the first inning, but they were a "momentum boost" to help OU take down Texas 10-5 in Game 2 of the Women’s College World Championship Series finals on Thursday night and capture a second straight NCAA title.

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"What's crazy is that we practice it all the time," Coleman said, of robbing the home run. "It's crazy that it actually showed up in a game when we really needed it. The best part of it is looking at (Jocelyn Alo) and she's just like, 'Let's go!' That's the best part of the play is seeing your teammates really excited for you. So, it felt great."

Paul Simonich, who was wearing a black and red OU hat and sunglasses, was sitting just on the other side of the wall and railing fence in the front row of centerfield as Coleman robbed the home run. 

“You see (Coleman) come to the fence but then you kind of lose her for a split second,” Simonich said. “And the next thing you know her whole arm is hanging over the fence. She didn’t go straight up to get it, she reached two or three feet behind the fence and caught it so that was really cool.

“I’ve seen a home run robbed, but never quite like that before.”

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OU's Jayda Coleman (24) leaps over the wall to make a catch for an out in the first inning of a 10-5 win against Texas on Thursday in Game 2 of the WCWS finals.

Simonich says he’s sat in the same seat in the outfield stands for the past eight Women’s College World Series. His daughter, Emma Simonich, a 2021 Deer Creek graduate is an outfielder for Colorado State, so he enjoys the perspective. 

The potential homer would have given Texas two more runs in the first inning, giving them a four-run lead. But Coleman's effort erased it as she secured herself as a big piece of OU's defense in the clinching championship game. 

"It's a game of inches," Texas coach Mike White said of Coleman's catch. "Not only is Oklahoma a great hitting team, they're a great defensive team. It's hard to score runs."

Oklahoma gave up just six total runs in the championship series. Coleman's defense was a big reason why. She finished it, throwing out a runner at second base in the fourth inning.

“She’s got incredible instincts and great range,” Simonich said of Coleman after she ran down her first catch. “When you see it off the bat you think no one is getting to it and before you know it, she’s right underneath it so everywhere we need her to be.”

James D. Jackson covers high school sports across the Oklahoma City metro and state. Have a story idea for James? He can be reached at jjackson@oklahoman.com or on Twitter at @JamesDJackson15. Support James' work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com or by using the link at the top of this page.

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