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Oklahoma softball celebrations: Why Sooners are 'unapologetic' about big reactions to small moments

By Kevin Skiver,

2023-06-07

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When Jayda Coleman was intentionally walked in the top of the ninth inning of the Women's College World Series semifinal against Stanford, the Oklahoma center fielder spiked her bat to celebrate.

That piqued the interest of some fans watching the Sooners in the College World Series. It was a big celebration for the Cardinal intentionally putting runners at the corners with two outs.

As it turned out, however, Coleman wasn't celebrating the walk. She was celebrating the next hitter. Tiare Jennings doubled the other way to give Oklahoma a 4-2 lead, where it would stay as Jordy Bahl shut Stanford down in order in the bottom of the ninth to put the Sooners in the final.

It's hard not to notice the way Oklahoma celebrates ... everything. Whether it's a walk or a homer, if something positive happens, the dugout is celebrating in a big way. While part of this is softball culture -- softball dugouts tend to be a bit more vocal than baseball ones -- the other part is that it's just who the Sooners are.

MORE: Oklahoma could join exclusive list of threepeat champions

Oklahoma is on a historic win streak -- 51 games heading into Wednesday's game against Florida State. When a team rips off that many wins in a row, winning can become rote. Rigid. Boring. But Oklahoma's celebrations make sure winning becomes anything but bland.

Why does Oklahoma celebrate so much?

There's a short answer to why the Sooners celebrate so often: It's their identity.

“One thing I’ve told these guys is … you must be unapologetic about the energy and the celebrations that you have because women have worked so hard to get here, yet still get judged for those things,” said Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, per USA Today.

“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 it the right way.”

MORE: How much does Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso make?

Indeed, Coleman's bat spike off a walk was prophetic in a way. Jennings' two-run double tied the Women's College World Series record for individual RBIs. That's what Gasso means by "knowing the game."

According to shortstop Grace Lyons, it's about propping each other up, not tearing other teams down.

“We never mean it disrespectfully or against anyone else,” Lyons said. “It’s in our circle. So what we do is to bring passion to our circle, and it’s never against anyone else."

Coleman also takes issue with the "double standard" around Oklahoma's celebrations.

“It really disappoints me on the double standard and just seeing how male athletes slide with things and how female athletes don’t," she said, per USA Today. "Hopefully that stuff will change very soon.”

As for the walks, Alyssa Brito said Oklahoma isn't going to stop celebrating them any time soon.

“So to us, we're going to celebrate it, and we're going to celebrate it really hard, and it's just as good as getting a base hit in my eyes," she said, per Sports Illustrated . "When I bring energy like that, I think we all feel it. As a team, we're all collectively there, and we're on the same page of how important a walk is.”

MORE: What is Oklahoma softball legend Jocelyn Alo up to now?

Is there a double standard on celebrations?

Oklahoma is hardly the first team to come out and defend the way it celebrates.

In 2019, USWNT star Alex Morgan faced backlash for a celebration in which she mimed sipping tea during Women's World Cup against England.

“I feel that there is some sort of double standard for females in sports, to feel like we have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate, but not too much or in a limited fashion," Morgan said then, per For The Win . "You see men celebrating all over the world in big tournaments, grabbing their sacks or whatever it is. And when I look at sipping a cup of tea, I am a little taken aback by the criticism.”

Oklahoma clearly wants to do something to combat the idea women can't celebrate the big and small moments, and is doing so on a huge stage. The Sooners are seeking their third straight Division I championship, which would make them the first team to do so since UCLA in 1988-90. Rest assured, they'll be celebrating win or lose along the way.
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