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Column: It wasn’t a title run but no doubt an entertaining run

OKLAHOMA CITY — Dadgumit!

I’m disappointed. Not surprised but disappointed. 

My head told me no way Florida State, a softball team that has had a hard time finding itself this year, can beat a team twice that many in the softball world believes is the GOAT.

Not once, but twice.

That’s a tall order.

Maybe if the two games could have been played home and away, or on a neutral site, FSU could have won two of three.

My head told me there’s no way the No. 10 team in the country can beat the No. 1 team in the country two out of three when all three games are being played in the GOAT’s back yard. And certainly not with 6,250 OU fans screaming “Boomer!” on one side of the 13,000-seat stadium, and another 6,250 OU fans on the other side of the ballpark answer back, “Sooner!”

If the NCAA hoped to make this a neutral site game, the organization failed.

Miserably. 

Osceola subscriber NoleFan82 reminded us of a similar situation when the 1972 FSU basketball team made its run to the National Championship Game. Hugh Durham’s team had to beat North Carolina and Kentucky in the final game of Adolph Rupp’s legendary career to get to the NCAA Championship game to face No. 1 ranked UCLA. The championship game was scheduled for Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins’ home court on the UCLA campus.

While the home-field advantage didn’t help FSU, the partisan crowd is not what sent Florida State home as the second-best team. 

I mentioned in my previous column that the Sooner girls are a half a head taller than the Seminole girls. What I failed to mention is they are half an axe handle broader across the shoulders too. They look stronger. In male sports we write about one team looked like men, the other boys. Well Oklahoma’s girls looked like grown ass women by comparison. 

While size matters, especially on those rockets that cleared the NCAA regulation fast-pitch fence and sailed over temporary outfield bleachers that were 25 to 30 rows high, that was not the deciding factor.

Forget everything else, the deciding factor was one girl with goofy looking goggles that threw two complete, back-to-back, seven-inning games, scattering six hits and giving up three runs.

Let me put that another way, the girl threw 218 pitches in the span of 21 hours and allowed only six hits. In mathematical terms, FSU got a base hit on 2.75 percent of her pitches. The math gets even wonkier if you rule out the seeing-eye infield popup that got lost in the sun and fell untouched between the circle and first base. The officials in the press box ruled that an RBI double. And the percentages shrink appreciably if you divide by the number of hits she gave up (four) in innings other than the first. She retired 13 of the last 14 Seminoles she faced. 

I don’t care who Lonni Alameda chose to throw against her, or what substitution she made in the lineup, you don’t beat an opposing pitcher who is en fuego. 

“She came into this game saying, ‘I’m G-Juarez, I’m about to do a G-Juarez thing,’ ” said OU freshman Jayda Coleman.

Now that I know what a G-Juarez thing looks like, I might have thought twice about our proverbial David slaying Goliath twice in 21 hours.

And here’s the other bad break for the ‘Noles. This game almost didn’t happen for the fifth-year senior who spent her first two years at Arizona State and a week before the 2020 season was cancelled due to Covid 19, Juarez had to have surgery on the bicep of her throwing arm.

Wouldn’t you like to see the medical reports on that surgery?

Did they install a cadaver ligament from Nolan Ryan or perhaps something bionic?

As rough as Juarez was on FSU, the 6-foot, fifth-year hurler was nasty to everyone out here in OKC. She threw 31.1 innings and in the 17.1 she pitched against teams not named FSU, she gave up only one run.

Yikes!

Forget home field advantages, home runs and size. Giselle Juarez did us in.

We knew about Giselle. We knew she was Team USA good. But who would have thought she’d go all Lynda Carter on us, Wonder Woman spinning circles in the circle.

Sports is a fantasy world where anything can happen — FSU sweeping LSU in Baton Rouge, taking two from No. 3 Alabama — and perniciously does just enough times to provide us hope and to set our hearts free to overrule our head.

Besides, what fun is there in letting your head get in the way of your passion?

Had FSU faced any team other than Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, FSU would have flown home with the championship trophy. I’ll go one further, had FSU faced Oklahoma without Giselle Juarez, they would have added a second National Championship trophy since winning the 2018 National Championship.

After the game was in the books I stopped by the team hotel, where I expected the team to be in their rooms but instead they were in the lobby visiting with family and the fans who made the trek to support them over the exciting 10-day run. There were tears. Not tears of failure but of realizing this team has expired. They will never play together again. Five seniors will go on to careers outside the game. And the returning players will start a new team. This group of talented freshmen will need to take what they learned here to find a new team and a new way to battle back to OKC.

There was laughter too as these friendships and memories have been forged for a lifetime. 

Honestly, my head is surprised this Seminole team made it as far as it did — caps off to the ladies — but neither my head nor my heart is disappointed by the fun-filled weeks of NCAA Tournament play they entertained us with.