OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso said Tuesday that she tells her players “you must be unapologetic” for the way they play the game with energy and outwardly celebrate their triumphs — even if their triumph is as seemingly unimportant as a walk.
“Because women have worked so hard to get here yet still get judged for those things,” Gasso said. “That’s the way we play, and that’s what people enjoy. Or you don’t. You either like it or you don’t, but we’re not going to apologize for these players knowing the game and celebrating the right way.”
The Sooners have had plenty to celebrate of late. They’re ranked No. 1 and are riding an NCAA record 51-game winning streak.
On Wednesday, Oklahoma will seek to win a third straight national championship when it plays Florida State in the final of the Women’s College World Series.
But on the eve of the best-of-three series, left fielder Alyssa Brito acknowledged the criticism the players receive for the way they play with emotion and excitement.
“I think we’ve seen so much on social media,” she said.
It’s to the point that center fielder Jayda Coleman said she stays off her social media accounts “because that would fire me up and maybe just want to do it even more.”
Coleman, a first-team All-American who is tied for the team lead in home runs with 17, said there is a double standard that exists when it comes to men and women celebrating in sports.
“I really don’t get it,” she said. “I feel like we are continuously — and softball itself — are just breaking barriers. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and I feel like it’s just very disappointing to just see people just trying to tear us down in that type of way. Maybe not tearing us down, but just kind of making it into a negative light when you’re seeing the MLB players do the exact same thing or the NBA or NFL, throwing their helmets and having emotion. Like, why can’t we have emotion? We are in the same stakes as them. We are athletes just like them. Why can we not wear our emotions on their sleeves?
“It disappoints me on the double standard and how the male athletes slide with things and female athletes don’t, and hopefully that will change very soon.”
Shortstop Grace Lyons said it’s never about them trying to show up the opponent.
“What we do is to bring passion to our own circle, and it’s never against anyone else,” she said. “So, I just want to say that that’s not how we play. People may take it that way, but it’s all for our own joy and passion, never to tear down.”
Brito, a first-team All-American who leads the team with an .824 slugging percentage, said the great thing about social media critics is that you can always put the phone down and tune it out.
“We can’t satisfy anyone, and that’s not why we play this game,” she said. “That’s not why we’re here doing what we’re doing is to satisfy anyone. So I think for me, I’m going to stay being who I am and stay true to who I am. And if that passion that I have offends anyone, it’s just kind of like, ‘OK, I’m not going to allow anyone to kind of change my game.'”
Oklahoma doesn’t appear to have been affected by the critics.
During the Sooners’ 51-game winning streak, which dates to Feb. 19, they have outscored opponents 420-49.
Florida State pitcher Kathryn Sandercock acknowledged on Tuesday, “The margin is super small when you’re playing Oklahoma.”
Seminoles catcher Michaela Edenfield repeated coach Lonni Alameda’s message to the team Tuesday: “Pressure is a privilege.”
“Obviously they’re a very great team, and I think that we are as well,” Edenfield said. “We’re really capable of competing with them as long as we … stay present.”