Patty Gasso explains pitching curve she threw at Texas in WCWS final


Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso was adamant about the importance of winning the first game of the Women's College World Series championship series against Texas. And she went with her best in the circle, Oklahoma State transfer Kelly Maxwell, to achieve just that.

But then, the Sooner head coach of the past 30 seasons had a big decision to make in Game 2. She knew see couldn't go back to Maxwell, who had delivered 148 pitches two days before in OU's elimination game win over Florida to get to the championship series and 118 pitches in a complete-game win over the Longhorns.

"I did that once with (former OU star pitcher) Paige Parker," Gasso said following the Sooners' champion series win to secure a historic fourth consecutive national title. "I'd never do it again. It wasn't worth it."

The incident Gasso was referring to was in the 2017 WCWS. Parker had thrown 108 pitches in relief, closing out a nearly seven-inning relief appearance in the Sooners' 17-inning 5-4 Game 1 win over Florida. Gasso elected to go with Parker to start Game 2 in the series, but that decision backfired as Parker lasted just two outs into the second inning after allowing three runs on four hits. Oklahoma went on to win that game and earn a second consecutive national championship,

Obviously, Gasso had the 2017 situation top of mind as she was mulling over how to approach last Thursday's potential close-out game with Texas. She had fourth-year senior Nicole May, who had started 20 games and won 14 during the 2024 season, ready to go. But she elected to go in a different direction and do something Oklahoma had not done the entire season.

Gasso threw everyone a curve by going with what in Major League Baseball is termed an 'opener" followed by a committee that incorporates the entire staff and, ideally, closes the game with the best on the staff. And that's where Maxwell came in.

Sooner fans no doubt were wondering why OU was starting the game with Karlie Keeney, who had started just five times the entire season.

Texas took a 1-0 lead in the second, but OU responded in the bottom of the second with a two-run homer by freshman Kasidi Pickering. Keeney encountered more trouble in the third, and with two outs, a run in and the bases loaded, Gasso summoned seldom-used pitcher Paytn Montecelli from the bullpen. Montecelli recorded the final out in the inning on an infield groundout, limiting the damage to one run

Sophomore Kierston Deal pitched the fourth inning for the Sooners, allowing a hit, a stolen base and an unearned run on a rare OU fielding error, as Texas regained the lead 3-2.

Oklahoma loaded the bases in the home half of the fourth, and Cydney Sanders cleared the bases with a three-run double in the gap in right center field, flipping the scoreboard to 5-3 in favor of the Sooners.

That proved to be the turning point and made Gasso's strategy to keep the Texas hitters off balance by giving them different looks and pitching styles in the circle appear brilliant. The Sooners would score three more time in the sixth, but May and finally Maxwell, closed out the final three innings, allowing two hits and striking out five of the 11 batters they faced.

"It was exactly planned out, and it worked exactly as it was supposed to."

Patty Gasso

"It was new to us," she continued. "What I loved is every pitcher had a part in this, for the most part."

Oh, by the way, Kelly Maxwell was named the Most Outstanding Player in this year's Women's College World Series. That award plus the national championship ring she just earned should ease all the shaming she endured after leaving Oklahoma State and crossing the Bedlam rivalry for Oklahoma.

Maxwell is the third Oklahoma Sooner pitcher in the last four years to be named WCWS Most Outstanding Player, joining Giselle Juarez (2021) and Jordy Bahl (2023)