Jenni Carlson: North Central Texas College came to town, and while the community-college softball team provided little resistance for OU, it was good to get an eye on the Sooners.
NORMAN — It’s been more than four months since the college softball season ended.
I needed a fix.
On Monday evening, I popped into OU’s first non-intrasquad game of the fall-ball season. North Central Texas College came to town, and while the community-college team from just down the road in Gainesville, Texas, provided little resistance, it was good to get an eye on the Sooners.
Here are three things about the Sooner softballers that stood out:
1. Jayda Coleman is even more muscled up than she was a season ago. The Sooner centerfielder’s physical transformation was noticeable last season. From arms and shoulders to torso and legs, there was added muscle. Coleman joked she was just trying to hit more homers like Tiare Jennings.
But Coleman’s power is no laughing matter. She started the Sooner scoring with a homer.
I’m not trying to suggest Coleman will be threatening any Jocelyn Alo homer records, but think how much tougher an out Coleman will be at the top of the Sooner lineup. She’s already speedy and hardly ever swings at a bad pitch. Add even more power to her bag of tricks, and opposing pitchers had better look out.
Oklahoma Kelly Maxwell (28) pitches during a scrimmage Wednesday.
2. Kelly Maxwell still looks like Kelly Maxwell, just in a different colored jersey. The transfer from Oklahoma State threw just an inning Monday evening, and only one of the three batters got a ball on one of her pitches, an easy ground out.
Yes, it is a bit odd seeing Maxwell in crimson after four seasons in orange, and that will be an ongoing narrative next spring. But it will be fascinating to see how Maxwell evolves under the tutelage of OU pitching coach Jen Rocha. There’s no one better pitching guru in the college game, and she has been particularly good with transfers who are short timers. One and dones such as Hope Trautwein and Alex Storako.
What Rocha does with Maxwell this fall — Add a new pitch? Alter a grip? Tweak a delivery? — could pay big dividends in the spring.
3. Who ends up playing shortstop for the Sooners is going to be fascinating. Grace Lyons was a rock at short for four seasons, but now that she’s graduated, the job is up for grabs. With a bunch of former shortstops of Patty Gasso’s roster, there are lots of candidates.
Frankly, I thought Alyssa Brito might be the leading candidate — and maybe she is — but she made a play at third base Monday that made me wonder: maybe she’s too good at third to move.
On a sacrifice-bunt attempt, Brito charged the ball and ended up almost between home and the pitcher’s rubber. But instead of throwing to first, she deftly spun and smoothly lasered a throw to second to get the lead runner. It was a play that made you sit up in your seat.
Brito might end up playing short for the Sooners. It was where she played at Oregon before transferring to OU a couple of years ago. But she has become as good at third as any college player.