Oklahoma softball star Jocelyn Alo, one homer shy of NCAA record, walks three times in home opener

Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo took the field for Oklahoma's home opener tied for most career homers in NCAA history. Courtesy of Ty Russell

NORMAN, OKLA. -- Jocelyn Alo swung -- a big swing at that -- as a 13 mph wind whipped her hair around. The fans at the Oklahoma Sooners softball home opener, many of whom were huddled under blankets as the temperature dropped into the high 30s, audibly gasped.

It was the third inning of Oklahoma's 9-1, five-inning win over Minnesota on Monday, and it was Alo's third time at the plate. She had taken nine straight balls from Minnesota starter Autumn Pease, and this one looked too good to pass up.

She swung. She missed. She then took three straight balls for her third walk of the game.

Alo, who is tied with former Sooners star Lauren Chamberlain for most career home runs in NCAA history, never got another chance. The No. 1 Sooners improved to 16-0 with the run-rule win. Alo scored twice.

"It's frustrating because a hitter wants to hit," Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. "She is doing what she needs to do for the team, but there is frustration because she's been waiting to swing for a while, and I am just proud of her for taking a team approach."

Since hitting her 95th home run to tie Chamberlain in the first inning against Texas State on Feb. 20, Alo has gone 3-for-10 with 13 walks and one hit-by-pitch in 24 plate appearances.

On Monday, Alo walked on four pitches in her first at-bat to a smattering of boos from the crowd. She came around to score, giving Oklahoma a 1-0 lead. In her second at-bat, she was walked intentionally -- to more boisterous boos -- with a runner on third and the Sooners holding a 2-1 lead. She came around to score on a Jana Johns double to put Oklahoma up three in the second inning.

With two outs in the third, and with the Sooners leading 7-1 and runners on first and second, Alo took her lone swing. But she isn't going to get desperate while trying to set the record, Gasso said.

"She could have chased after a few ... that were close enough, but she's too pure of a hitter," the coach explained.

A packed home crowd of 1,531 people bundled up their blankets as they made their way out of the stadium -- some excited after the victory, some frustrated after Alo's walks and some feeling like this was meant to be.

Alo, a redshirt senior, has stalled in the past two weeks, sure, but her numbers are still something to behold. The reigning Big 12 player of the year, Alo led the nation in home runs in 2021 with 34, a single-season Oklahoma record and second in NCAA history, behind Laura Espinoza, who hit 37 for Arizona in 1995.

Alo finished the 2021 season with 88 career home runs. She hit seven through Oklahoma's first nine games this season, including a grand slam in her first official at-bat, before stalling Feb. 25-27 at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, where she went 3-for-8 with 10 walks.

She is batting .474 with seven home runs and 18 walks for the season. Her slugging percentage is 1.132, which ranked in the top 10 in the nation entering last weekend's games.

In a way, the 13 walks over the past two weeks have led to a welcome flight on Tuesday. Alo and the Sooners are headed to Hawaii, where she will have four games to continue her pursuit of history in her home state. On Monday, she had a lone uncle supporting and watching her from the stands. But in Hawaii, she will have her entire family and her friends there to support her. And it's safe to say that the workers selling merchandise at the Rainbow Wahine Classic, which starts Thursday, won't have to sell socks that could double as mittens, like two workers selling OU gear did on Monday outside Marita Hynes Field in Norman.

Before the game on Monday, Alo said she was "chilling," that she just wanted to play good softball and help her team win. But with the media and fans asking her about it -- more and more of late -- she said she is subconsciously starting to think about her next home run.

Alo is mighty superstitious before games, and she is taking special care to make sure she doesn't mess up the order in which she gets ready before games.

Left soft. Right sock. Left leg goes into her pants. Then right. Left eyelash extension. Then right. And, right before every at-bat, she lunges -- first left, then right. She has done that forever, and she will continue to do so in Hawaii, she said.

"It's gonna happen in Hawaii," said 52-year-old fan Bill Kauffman, who traveled from Tulsa to watch the game with his 15-year-old son, J.T. "That's the best thing. That's how it should be. It's fate."

Hitting home run No. 96 and setting an NCAA record in her home state of Hawaii? Forget the gasps that accompanied Alo's lone swing on Monday night. That sounds like a poetic chapter to a storied career.