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How the Core Five helped Patty Gasso, OU softball reach new heights

Bob Przybyloby:Bob Przybylo06/09/24


The 10 seniors, the 10 OU softball seniors. Heard it like crazy throughout the 2024 season. With good reason, too, when you think of all that experience and production.

But this might be one of the last throwback classes. In the transfer portal age, the ones you came in with as a freshman probably won’t be there when you leave.

That’s part of an incredible legacy left by the core five for OU softball. Through COVID (for some) and injuries and everything else, this quintet stuck it out.

And they’re the history-making champions, earning back-to-back-to-back-to-back national championships.

There won’t be another class that feature the likes of Kinzie Hansen, Rylie Boone, Jayda Coleman, Tiare Jennings and Nicole May.

And head coach Patty Gasso knows it. She recognizes it. OU history, NCAA history.

“I just watched these athletes grow into women,” Gasso said. “They come in as girls, they really do. They’ll admit that. But each one of them has something about them that is unique.”

OU went 235-15, winning 94 percent of its games with this group. Unheard of.

Again, the legacy isn’t just one thing here or one thing there. Gasso will tell you they’ve changed who she is as a coach. And all for the better.

The celebrating a walk? Yea, Gasso wasn’t a fan of that, initially.

“When I first saw these guys throw the bat down, after a walk, I’m like, what are you doing? Don’t do that,” Gasso said. “You’re showing up the umpire or you’re going to hit somebody. But we do it. They do it at practice. I’ve learned to allow them to be who they are. The old coach of me would not allow any of this.

“This generation, they’ve taught me a lot about coaching. They taught me how to accept who they are and how it looks. I mean, I think that has a lot to do with a lot of things, that I just allowed them to be them. They’ve taught me how to coach better.”

Some things were out of their control. Boone and Hansen were a part of the 2020 team that had its championship chase taken away by COVID.

But, strangely enough, it allowed them to be with this 2024 team and the attempt to make history and win four in a row.

The legacy is winning, for sure. But maybe more than that? It was a mentality. It spread from one season to the next and became the identity and should be the identity for years to come.

“I would say that the legacy that we kind of wanted to show them was to leave it all on the field every day, never take it for granted,” Hansen said. “Rylie and I came in, we played about 20 games our freshman year. It was taken away in a blink of an eye on March 13th when we were sent home. I never thought I’d be thankful for COVID, but here I am with a four-peat.

“Just being able to show them what true tenacity looks like, showing them to never give up and never give in. Just no matter how much your body hurts, how many Ls you take, how much you get punched in the mouth, like I said the other day, always to get back up and to always keep going.”

Former OU football head coach Bob Stoops never allowed himself to get too sentimental. He’d always say everything has its season, and then its time to come to the end.

It still feels surreal to think the 2025 lineup won’t have Coleman in the leadoff spot. Or Jennings to follow. Or Hansen as a big bat in the middle. You get the idea.

No doubt 2025 will bring about a lot of changes. But the 2024 senior class is one that will forever go down in history. No matter what comes after, that’s never going to change.

“As much as I’m going to miss them, they’ve been here for a long time,” Gasso said. “They’ve done everything you could do and more. It is time for them to fly. So Olympics, pro, marriage. There’s lots of things coming their way. I’m really excited for them. I just think, oh, gosh, I’m going to miss ’em.

“We’re going to be at championship reunions like four years in a row. We’re going to see each other a lot. They all have wonderful things ahead of them. They’ve cemented this program in history. They’ve cemented themselves in history. History can change, but these guys will never, ever be forgotten.”

Core Five in Gasso’s words

Gasso took the time after the WCWS-clinching win to speak about the members of that special, special group.

“I’d say Jayda and Rylie Boone have so much energy,” Gasso said. “What you see is exactly what they are like every single day. They crash. When they crash, they crash hard. But they live life hard.

“Then you got Hansen, who is like the brut. Punch us in the mouth. I’m like, Don’t do that, don’t do that. But that’s Hansen. They all have their own…

“Tiare is just the calm, quiet, level. They all have such big personalities. Then there’s a balance of someone like Tiare.

“I feel like I’ve been with Nicole, well, I have been with her since she was a kid. And you now watch her in these moments and I think Nicole has been unfairly judged and she knows that we’ve got her back and we’ve got her support.

“I shout-out to Boone and Coleman because those two make this program go. They are full of energy, and that energizes everyone. When they aren’t energized, we aren’t energized. They took it upon themselves with some guidance to know that was going to be a very special situation, if they could do it.

“We called them the Chaos Coordinators. They took that title and they ran with it. It really sparked this team.”

By the numbers

Overall record: 235-15
Postseason record: 41-4
WCWS record: 21-4
Runs: 2,261 (9.04) vs. 374 (1.5 avg.)
Postseason runs: 374-104
Home runs: 555

Anyone but OU? Wrap it up, Coleman.

“It was frustrating just to see everyone on Twitter, TikTok hoping anybody else but us,” Coleman said. “Well… That didn’t happen, so…”

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