Sooners,Cowgirls on collision course

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – In three years at Texas A&M Samantha Show never came close to playing in the Women’s College World Series. So as she entered the 2019 WCWS with Oklahoma State, it would have been understandable if the Texas native was jittery.

However, Show was far from that. The right-handed hurler led OSU to a 2-1 win over Florida Thursday in their opening game of the WCWS at USA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Show was 2-for-3 from the plate with two homers. The rest of the Cowgirls were held hitless.

Show also picked up the complete-game victory after allowing six hits and one run.

“I’m super excited for her,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “But I’ll be honest, she doesn’t care. She wants this team and this program that gave her kind of the second chance. She was a star when she got here. Her first year at A&M, she was unreal. She was a bona fide star. She’s a bona fide All-American. She’s one of the best players in the country.”

After being shut down for the entire night, the UF began to show life in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophia Reynoso and Jordan Roberts came up with back to back singles to start the inning before Jade Caraway and Jordan Matthews both hit into fielder choices.

That set up Alex Voss with an opportunity to save the game. The senior came to the plate with two outs on the board and the tying run at third base.

But Show was just as strong on the mound as she was at the plate. She got Voss to ground out and end the game.

Along with only allowing two hits, Barnhill (34-13) struck out nine batters. But she knows she made a pair of mistakes a veteran pitcher can’t make.

“You don’t give her anything good to hit,” Barnhill said of Show. “I was trying to throw a screwball inside and I left it down the middle. She hit it them hard and far.”

To keep their season alive, Florida has to get by fellow SEC foe Alabama when they tangle at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Tide won the regular season series 3-0.

Oklahoma 3, Alabama 2

The Sooners and Tide were all knotted up at 2-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Jocelyn led off the inning for the Sooners with a walk. Two batters later Nicole Mendes laced a triple to the centerfield wall to plate a run and put Oklahoma up by a run.

Throughout her career Mendes has had a knack for coming up with big plays at the WCWS.

“I like to compete,” Mendes said. “And this is where the biggest teams come to compete. It just brings something out in me. I just get really excited and amped up.”

Giselle Juarez didn’t have her best stuff on the mound, but in the seventh inning she was good enough. She used her defense to close out the game and hand the Sooners the victory.

Juarez bounced back from a shaky start that included giving up a homer to pick up her 27th win of the season.

“Key I guess was just letting it go, just not letting it affect our game. Looking forward” Juarez said. “

“Moving onto the next pitch.”

The win sets up an All-Big 12 meeting between the two local teams at the WCWS. The top-ranked Sooners will take on Oklahoma State at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The Sooners swept the season series 3-0.

“OSU is a great team,” Sydney Romero said. “I just think the cool part about it is you have two Oklahoma teams playing in the World Series. Just the fact that both of thee teams are from Oklahoma, I think it just says a lot of stuff.”

Arizona 3, Washington 1 (8)

Arizona and Washington had a pitching duel for the first five innings of their opening game. But then the Wildcats Jessie Harper decided to interject some offense into the game. The junior crushed a solo homer to give UA a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth.

However, that lead was short-lived. The Huskies Sami Reynolds blasted a homer on the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game at 1-1.

The teams stayed scoreless until the top of the eighth inning when junior Dejah Mulipola sent a 2-run blast over the centerfield fence off Taran Alvelo. It turned out to be the game-winner with the Huskies unable to respond in the bottom of the inning.

“Facing Alvelo in my first couple at-bats, I knew she was throwing me out,” Mulipola said. “I was sitting on that. I think she understood I was sitting on that. She started coming in the next few at-bats. I was trying to breathe, see a pitch. I happened to see one. Actually, I didn’t think it was out. When I tell that to everyone, they don’t believe me. That’s why I was so excited running around first base when it did go over.”

Washington, who made it to the championship series last year, will have its season on the line when they take the field at 11 a.m. Saturday against Minnesota.

“We’re just glad we get to play again,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said. “It would be awful if that was our last game. We’re happy we get to play again.”

UCLA 7, Minnesota 2

It didn’t take the Bruins long to get on the board. Bubba Nickles crushed a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the first inning.

“I think it was really crucial to get our momentum going,” Nickles said. “I just wanted to come out for them the best I could, and have a quality at-bat, really. Wasn’t trying to hit a home run. It worked out to get us ahead.”

The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead and looked on their way to an easy win. But the Gophers closed the gap to 3-2 in the sixth on a pair of RBIs from Natalie DenHartog and Allie Arneson.

However, UCLA responded in the bottom of the inning with four runs. That included a 3-run shot by Aaliyah Jordan to put the contest away.

“It felt good,” Jordan said. “I mean, I had a plan going up first at-bat, I didn’t get what I wanted. I think staying positive throughout these three at-bats, coming up the last at-bat get the pitch I wanted felt good.”

The Bruins will face Arizona Friday at 6 p.m.

 

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter/Content Creator

Arizona was built for the WCWS

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — No coach at the Women’s College World Series has as much experience as Mike Candrea. The cagey veteran is in his 34th season at Arizona and has compiled an impressive resume that includes eight national championships and an Olympic Gold Medal.

Yet, when his all-American catcher, Dejah Mulipola heard what Candrea had in store for the Wildcats when practice opened in the fall, even she had to take a step back.

‘My first thought was extremely scared,” Mulipola said. “I was terrified. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to die. I’ve never done training like this. I don’t think I’m physically fit, mentally fit.’”

What Candrea put in place that had his team petrified was called The Program. It involved a group of Navy Seals attending the Wildcats’ practice for three days to put them through drills and situations to build championship teams.

“The Program is not concerned about talent or winning individual games,” founder Eric Kapitulik stated on his website. “We care about competing for championships — and to compete for a championship, we must make a commitment as individuals and as a team to getting ‘that much better’ every single day. We do this by being good team leaders and good teammates and by preparing ourselves every day to fill either role.”

According to the Program, they believe leadership and team cohesion can only be developed through the experience of shared adversity. So the instructors put the Wildcats through situations that tested them physically and mentally.

“We did a water workout where we had to swim across the pool, swim back. We were treading water as we were taking off our wet sweaters and then putting them back on,” Mulipola said. “It kind of taught you to communicate with your team to survive or else you’re going to drown. So it was just communication. Learning to listen to commands as well as give them. Just working as a team, just working as one unit to accomplish a mission. I think that tied into season and softball and how we can incorporate that into our softball world.”

The fruits of those three days in the fall are now being seen with Arizona making the WCWS for the first time since 2010.

Mulipola hit a mammoth game-winning 2-run homer in the eighth inning Thursday to lead the Wildcats past Washington in Game 1 of the WCWS.

“The leaders that were leading in the program are leaders on the team now,” Mulipola said. “So Taylor (McQuillin), me, Jesse (Harper), people like that. Just learning to listen to whoever is trying to help you in a way, to help you to survive on the field, you understand it will get you somewhere. It’s for the benefit of you.”

According to Mulipola, it also took one other important decision by the team to get where they are now.

“Our team bought into what coach was selling for the first year ever,” Mulipola said. “Everyone was buying into their positions, their roles on the teams and I truly felt that throughout the season, which I think was very beneficial for us.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter/Content Creator

 

Wildcats up next for No. 1 Sooners

 

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN, Okla. — Back in early March, Northwestern traveled from Chicago to Norman. The Wildcats were part of a strong field the Sooners had assembled for their annual OU tournament.

That was the first time Northwestern had gotten a chance to be on the same field with the then-No. 3 ranked Sooners. Oklahoma was still in the early stages of its record-breaking 41 game win streak and was still trying to figure out what type of team they were going to become.

Despite that, the trip didn’t go well for the Wildcats. In two head-to-head matchups, Oklahoma decimated NU by a combined score of 15-0.

Yet, as No. 16 Northwestern (47-11) prepares to face No. 1 Oklahoma (52-3) again in the NCAA Super Regional, it looks back on those March encounters as learning experiences.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for us to have already played here,” NU’s Rachel Lewis said. “Five games I think we played, with this crowd. That’s a huge advantage coming in. And have already played them, I think it defiantly helps us.”

Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan said the experience of being able to play the best team in the country on its home-field helps erase any fear of the unknown.

“This is a great venue,” Drohan said. “This is a great venue in college softball right now. And for us to have experienced the fans, the environment, I think it’s a real plus for us. We understand what to expect. It’s still going to be a challenge to manage that in the moment. Especially as the momentum of the game really takes over. But I think we’re more prepared than we were in March.”

Since losing to Oklahoma, the Wildcats have dropped a total of five games.

“I think we really (over the year) have developed as a team as far as playing together and knowing what each other’s role is on the team,” Lewis said. “We all kind of figured out where we fit and how to play together.”

While the Wildcats said they have changed the first matchup in Norman, the Sooners believe they have matured and transformed during the past three months as well.

But it was over the past week that the Sooners may have grown the most. After losing to Wisconsin in the regional round and having to come back to win a game to keep the season alive, everyone in the program said it has been a learning experience for them all.

“It’s something we kind of talked about,” OU senior Caleigh Clifton said. “We kind of needed that game. It sucks at the time. But I think it sets our mindset and takes us to another level. Now we talk about not taking anything for granted. Not just coasting. So I think that was important for us.”

In the Sooners final three games at the Regional Tournament, they scored a total of seven runs. Coach Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso does not expect to see that offensive performance again.

“We learned. What we need to do is learn,” Gasso said. “I think you’ll see a different attack mode. I think you’ll feel a little more energy. They absolutely know, not that we were lucky, but when you have your back against the wall and you know your season could be over, it’s uncomfortable. And they fought through that. They know this is the most important weekend of their season because it will either send you home or you go to the promised land.”

Gasso has not named who will get the start on the mound for the Sooners in Game 1 of the Super Regional, which tips off at 2 p.m. at Marita Hynes Field. While many believe it will be junior Giselle Juarez, she says any of their top three hurlers have the ability to take the ball in a big game.

“We all have each other’s backs,” Juarez said. “We can fight back-to-back. And I think when we fight with each other back-to-back, nobody can attack us from our weak side. I think that’s something we have talked about, working together. We have each other’s back if one of has to come in and take over. I think that’s something special about all of us.”

One of the tone-setters for senior Sydney Romero. The senior infielder was named one of three finalists for the 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year on Thursday.

However, the California native said individual awards don’t mean too much to her. She is focused on winning for her teammates and enjoying the journey. That has rubbed off her team as well.

“This team loves to have fun,” Romero said. “We don’t go in with fear. I just think we go all out. It just makes it so much fun. And you have so much joy with each other. That’s just our main goal, to just have the best time we can.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter

Sooners win streak comes to an end

By Michael Kinney

With a chance to earn a spot in the Super Regionals, all No. 1 Oklahoma needed to do was knock out a scrappy Wisconsin squad. The same Badgers they had beaten in the Regional opener Friday.

However, UW had other plans. They came up with their second dramatic victory in less than 24 hours as they came back to win 2-1 Sunday afternoon.

The loss ends the Sooners win streak at 41 games. It also forces a winner take all game, which is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. at Marita Hynes Field.

The Sooners Sydney Romero began the afternoon with a solo homer over the left field fence. It gave OU a 1-0 advantage.

After two strong innings, Oklahoma’s Mariah Lopez allowed her first hit of the game to start the third inning. It was the first hit the Sooners had surrendered in the regional tournament after 14 straight innings of no-hit ball.

Despite that, Lopez was on her game and shutout Wisconsin over four innings before she was pulled in the fifth and replaced by reliever Shannon Saile.

Kaitlyn Menz was also on the mound dealing for the Badgers. After the homerun to start the game, she settled down and kept the Sooners off-balance through four innings.

But in the fifth the Sooners began to get things working. Falepolima Aviu and Caleigh Clifton reached base on with singles. Jocelyn Alo came to bat with two outs on the board.

After a meeting at the mound, UW coach Yvette Kelly kept Menz in the game. She was rewarded by Menz who got Alo to fly out to right field. OU’s lead stayed 1-0.

With just two innings left in the game, OU coach Patty Gasso brought Giselle Juarez off the bench to get the final six outs of the game.

With a runner on,  Juarez hit a UW batter. The Badgers then pulled off the double steal, which put the go-ahead run at second base.

Wisconsin’s Caroline Hedgecock laid down the perfect bunt, which scored Taylor Johnson and tied the game. That was the first hit and run Juarez had allowed in the regional tourney.

Wisconsin’s Jolie Fish then laid down a sacrifice bunt and another run scored to give the Badgers their first lead.

That would be all Menz needed as she shutout the Sooners the rest of the game.

Juarez (24-1) picked up her first loss of the season while Menz moved to 21-8.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copy Writer

Sooners ride Juarez into title game

 

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN, Okla. –When a team has won 40 straight games, a lot of things have to go right. Even for a squad as talented as No. 1 Oklahoma, not every facet of the game is going be on high-level day after day.

One of those days came around Saturday when the Sooners took on Wisconsin at the Norman Regional. For one of the few times since February, the Oklahoma offense was flat.

But, like she has all season, Giselle Juarez was there to lift her squad. The junior pitched a complete game no-hitter and struck out 16 batters to lead the Sooners to a 4-0 win over the Badgers at Marita Hynes Field.

“Giselle was phenomenal,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “She is one pitch away, another perfect game and doing that in the postseason is off the charts. I’m really proud of her and her focus. And knowing that our team was not in their normal zone is when they needed her the most and she was there for us.”

In two games at regionals, the Sooners have yet to give up a hit and have allowed only one baserunner. Juarez has done the bulk of that work with 10 innings of near perfect pitching under her belt.

“Today was just about trusting my pitches,” Juarez said.

Juarez has three no-hitters this season and four for her career.

But it’s the way she is pitching now has Gasso thinking of some of the former hurlers who have worn the Crimson and Cream uniform.

“It’s fun to watch,” Gasso said. “It reminds me of some of our past pitchers. But she is nails out there. She is nails. When our team isn’t feeling it, we feel it off of her.”

Even though Juarez is in her first year at Oklahoma since transferring from Arizona State in offseason, it hasn’t taken the Glendale, Az.  native to find her comfort level with the program.

“We’re getting spoiled here. In two games we’ve not given up a hit,” Gasso said. “And when you’re in regionals, that’s unheard of.  I think we just almost expect it, which isn’t fair.  But she lives in that world as well. But we’re seeing greatness right now.”

However, as impressive as Juarez was, the Badger’s Haley Hestekin was hanging right with her. After a first-inning defensive lapse, the sophomore limited the explosive Oklahoma lineup to just a few hits over the next three innings.

That came to an end in the top of the fifth inning when the Sooners Grace Green drove in a run to put OU up 2-0. That ended Hestekin’s day and Kaitlyn Menz entered the game in relief.

In the sixth, Juarez got a visit to the mound by pitching coach Jennifer Rocha and catcher Lynnsie Elam.  With a runner on first, the game-tying run was at the plate.

“I wasn’t really trying to think about that,” Juarez said. “I was just thinking about doing my job, letting my defense play. And just letting it happen. Letting what’s going to happen, happen, but still being competitive.”

After the meeting at the mound, Juarez struck out both Kayla Konwent and Taylor Johnson to close out the threat.

“It makes it easy for us. It’s really fun to play behind her,” Sydney Romero said. “She is a confident pitcher. She just brings momentum to the defense. It’s just fun to play behind her.”

In the top of the seventh, Oklahoma’s offense finally got the big shot they had been looking to get. With a runner on second, Caleigh Clifton clubbed a 2-run homer to put OU up 4-0.

“I think just up to the point, we were pressing a little too much,” Clifton said.

Despite the Sooners running their win streak to 41 straight, Gasso said the team was not in a celebratory mood afterward.

“It’s a win, but in the locker room, our team had a mentality almost like they lost,” Gasso said. “But good teams find was ways to win when things aren’t exactly the way they want them to be. And that’s what they did today.”

Oklahoma (51-2) will play Wisconsin again for the regional championship at 1 p.m. today. Gasso is expecting to the Sooners come back to the ballpark with a different mindset.

“I’d like to see a completely different team who is coming in confident, coming in with ownership, coming in as women. I felt we looked a little like girls today. They don’t like when I say that. But they know it. They’ll admit it. They hold themselves to a very high standard. They know they are better than and believe they are going to fix that tomorrow.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copy Writer

Genesis aims to redefine urban luxary

Michael Kinney

NEW YORK – Manfred Fitzgerald says the world is changing and car manufacturers need to adapt to those changes. The Executive Vice President and Global Head of the Genesis Brand was speaking to a large crowd of onlookers at the New York International Auto Show April 17th at the Javits Center.

Fitzgerald said all of this right before unveiling his companies new concept car, the Genesis Mint (Mint Concept), which he says fits perfectly in the growing modern city.

 “We live in an age in which cities around the globe are adapting to change,” Fitzgerald said. “When we started this project not even 12 months ago, our designers around the world were tasked with visualizing our interpretation of an urban vehicle with our design identity. Which is guided by athletic elegance. The Mint Concept introduces this all-electric luxury car for the city.”

The Mint Concept was designed by several Genesis design studios located around the world, led by Genesis Global Advanced Design in Germany, Genesis Design Team in the U.S., and the Namyang Design Center in South Korea.

“The Mint Concept disconnects the physical dimensions of the vehicle from its positioning as a premium product, calquing the city car of the past to today,” said Luc Donckerwolke, Executive Vice President and Chief Design Officer of Hyundai Motor Group. “The Mint Concept is a designer’s Occam’s razor that challenged us to visualize a scaled-down interpretation of our signature aesthetic.”

The Mint Concept is the first automobile Genesis has featured that is not classified as a sedan. The two-seater doesn’t fit the normal definition of a luxury car. But according to Fitzgerald, Genesis is changing that definition.

“The Mint concept disconnects the physical dimensions of the vehicle from its positioning as a luxury product,” Fitzgerald said. “It redefines the city car. For us luxury does not have size. In short, the Mint concept our interpretation of a car perfectly suited for this city. Inside and out, the Mint Concept proposes an expanded definition of the Genesis brand. Designed, adaptive for a two-door, two passenger city car.”

The design features include quad Lamps in front and backstretch to the corners, the Crest Grille and a G-Matrix pattern, leather interior and swivel seats. It also has no trunk in the rear. Instead, it features a storage compartment behind the seats. It can be accessed with its own set of smaller Lamborghini style doors.

“We were thinking if you’re going shopping around in town or going to the gym, etc., why do you have to go around the car to put your bags and things away?” Fitzgerald said. “Why don’t you have lateral access?”

Finished in Hunter Green matte paint, the Mint Concept stands out from the crowd with its three-box design to the corners with extremely short front and rear overhangs.

“Like a carefully furnished city dwelling constrained by space requirements, the Mint Concept takes advantage of every cubic inch of its interior,” Fitzgerald said. “The cozy space for two is made to feel expansive, through the use of lightweight textiles, cognac leather, and mullion-free windows.”

With its foray into the electric car division, Genesis is going all in. The Mint Concept will have a battery electric powertrain compatible with 350 volt fast chargers, which allows for 200 miles on a single charge.

The combination of its size and the all-electric format makes it the perfect car for cities that are only getting more cramped and congested.  

“We were toying around with this idea, actually, since I joined the company in 2016,” Fitzgerald said. “I always thought that there’s a white space on the map that nobody’s actually looking at right now. And looking at how luxurypopulation is growing, and how the tendencies are that people are moving more and more into big cities. Space will become an issue. Giving a good answer to that is what you see right here.”

However, as proud as Fitzgerald and the rest of Genesis seem to be of the Mint Concept, there is no guarantee it will ever go into production. As of right now, it is being used as a landmark for what the company can do and where it’s going.

“I do believe that the size of the product does not determine if it’s luxury or not,” Fitzgerald said. “As there are no products which are comparable to this, I do believe that we have a cutting edge on that one.”

 

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Creator

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