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How Paytn Monticelli, Cydney Sanders provided OU with an unlikely championship lift

Bob Przybyloby:Bob Przybylo06/07/24

BPrzybylo

OKLAHOMA CITY – You don’t win a history-making national championship without some unlikely heroes, and OU softball had them.

In the circle, at the plate, it wasn’t just the 10 seniors providing the moments for the Sooners.

For OU to take down No. 1 Texas one more time in the Women’s College World Series, a couple of names emerged ready for the task.

One, it was a bit of a redemption moment for first baseman Cydney Sanders. She looked like one of the best power hitters in the country in March before tailing off the rest of the way.

But if you had to pick the biggest hit of Thursday’s championship win? It was Sanders with a three-run, bases-clearing double in the bottom of the fourth.

The biggest out? Well, we’ll backtrack to the third inning and Paytn Monticelli. Yes, you read that right. The little used transfer was the one to register the game-defining out.

Head coach Patty Gasso and pitching coach Jen Rocha had the plan. They were going to do what so many teams had done to them. Use everybody. It was five pitchers when it was all said and done.

It started with Karlie Keeney, and then it went to Monticelli. Bases loaded, two outs in the top of the third, game tied 2-2, now go to Monticelli?

“I’ve never played in front of a crowd this big,” Monticelli told SoonerScoop. “Coach put her faith in me. It was super cool. I felt like I was vibrating, if that makes sense. I was so amp’d and ready to go.”

It wasn’t easy, though. Monticelli worked to a 3-2 count before inducing a routine grounder to Sanders for the final out.

Monticelli was only used for that one out, but mission accomplished.

“Honestly, I didn’t hear the fans at all,” Monticelli said. “It was just a moment between me and Cyd. Super cool. I can’t even describe it.

“I never knew when my number was going to be called, but I was trying to stay true to the process.”

Sanders brings ‘em home

Maybe fitting that Sanders and Monticelli had a shared moment to lead to Sanders having her own WCWS at-bat she’ll never forget.

Texas took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the fourth. OU grinded its way toward having bases loaded with just one out.

Now it was Sanders’ turn.

“I went to the locker room and said I wasn’t going to let this pitcher beat me,” Sanders said. “I was going to beat her. Ended up working out for me. It truly was amazing.”

Sanders turned on one, roping a double into the right-center gap. It cleared the bases and gave OU a 5-3 lead. The Sooners never trailed again, never looked back.

The fourth championship in a row officially in the books. Gasso stressed she needed everybody to make it happen. And performances like what OU got from Monticelli and Sanders showed everybody was mentally locked in at all times.

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