The Road to Oklahoma City starts here.

What were the big storylines on Opening Day in Division I Softball? We've got the answer.


Daily Dozen: Opening Day 2022

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1. Jordy Bahl makes a perfect start. Paige Parker threw a perfect game in her second career start, so maybe Patty Gasso just didn’t want every record to change hands this season? Holding firm to her pitch-by-committee approach, Gasso pulled Bahl after the freshman opened her career by retiring the first eight UCSB batters she faced. Nicole May and Hope Trautwein  completed the perfect game in Oklahoma’s 14-0 run-rule win. The combo effort is Oklahoma’s first perfect game since Brooke Vestal, Alanna Thiede and Olivia Rains combined last March. Oddly, all three now pitch elsewhere. Or perhaps not oddly, if they saw the writing on the wall with Bahl around. Oklahoma players and coaches didn’t hold back in praising Bahl before the season, and the way she popped Kinzie Hansen’s glove spoke volumes about why.

2. Jocelyn Alo and Tiare Jennings are at it again. The Sooners couldn’t even manage half as many runs as they scored in last season’s opener. What’s gone wrong with the champs? We kid, we kid. While it wasn’t last season’s 29-0 record-breaker, Oklahoma’s lineup looked as relentless as ever against the Gauchos. Jennings led off the top of the first inning with a home run. That’s the second time that the sophomore hit one out in her first at-bat of a season. She added a second home run later. Jennings’ leadoff blast was Oklahoma’s only hit until Jocelyn Alo’s grand slam made it 9-0 (yes, they piled up a lot of walks and hit batters). Alo now has 89 home runs in 206 games, six home runs behind NCAA record holder Lauren Chamberlain in 14 fewer games. Alo did strike out twice, something she did just once all of last season.

3. Olivia Johnson makes a first impression. Washington kept two highly touted freshmen on the bench to begin its opener, instead starting an all-veteran infield. A third freshman upstaged them all in a 12-2 win against Lamar. Johnson crushed a home run in her first collegiate at-bat — then put an even better swing on a blast to center in her second at-bat. She missed a third home run by a few feet, settling for a triple. Before the season, Heather Tarr told D1Softball: “She’s a strong woman. She’s going to be a really good player for us. It would be very unfair for us to ever compare her to Morganne Flores, but from a physical size and strength standpoint — and just as an overall human, she’s got a chance to make it pretty big in this game.”

4. Starting off with a banger. The season was only a few hours old, yet the UCF-Georgia showdown had a decidedly postseason feel. Shannon Doherty hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth to give UCF a 7-6 win in front of the largest opening-day crowd (1,093) in UCF history at The Plex. The biggest question for UGA this season under new head coach Tony Baldwin is who will emerge as a go-to arm in the circle following the graduation of ace Mary Wilson Avant. The results against UCF were mixed. The Dawgs walked in three runs in the third inning before Madison Kerpics pitched well in relief. The good thing for the Dawgs is their offense remains potent and can provide enough run support to help ease the learning curve. Speaking of relief pitching, UCF’s Kama Woodall held UGA in check. She allowed no hits in 3.2 innings to give Doherty a chance to play the walk-off hero as the Knights continued their annual trend of beating major programs.

5. Miranda Elish returns. It happened. Elish made her Oklahoma State debut on Thursday night at Farrington Stadium. And, well a game that looked comfortably in favor of the Cowgirls got stressful in a hurry. Elish allowed the first five batters she faced to reach. Arizona State closed the five-run lead to 5-2 and had the chance to tie it via a three-run home run from the middle of the order. Elish answered back to strike out Makenna Harper and Jazmyn Rollin to close out the only inning she pitched. Expect Elish to start on Friday against Duke.

6. Lowe-ball looks a lot like Candrea-ball. For an inning, things looked amiss. But after Southern Utah took a 1-0 lead, Arizona restored normal service in Caitlin Lowe’s first game as coach of her alma mater. Back-to-back home runs from Allie Skaggs and Carlie Scupin highlighted a 10-run second inning that propelled Arizona to a 22-1 run-rule win. Izzy Pacho added a third home run in the final inning. The Wildcats also opened last season with three home runs in a win against Southern Utah, the first of 16 times they would hit at least three in a game. Much of that team is gone, including the legendary coach, but Arizona can still rake. They had 16 hits Thursday, a figure they topped just once in the entirety of 2021.

7. Clemson is a popular attraction. The crowds Clemson attracts to home games have already shown the support for the young program is strong. Yet another example came Thursday night before the men’s basketball team hosted Duke. The softball opener against Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers, Fla., was shown on the big screen at Littlejohn Arena. The Tigers gave them plenty to cheer about, beating FGCU 11-0 in five innings. Valerie Cagle delivered as expected. The All-American finished 3 for 4 with six RBIs, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning. In the circle, Cagle allowed five hits in four innings with seven strikeouts.

8. Makenna Kliethermes tosses one-hit shutout. Kliethermes didn’t quite match her 15-strikeout no-hitter from a year ago, but she was pretty darn close. A Bre Roper seventh-inning single spoiled the no-no. Nevertheless, Kliethermes dazzled against the Ole Miss lineup as she only walked two batters and struck out 15. It’s a testament to the pitching staff Melyssa Lombardi has formed when her No. 2 pitcher can shut down a SEC foe in such dominating fashion on opening day.

9. UCLA records a 13-run first inning against CSUN. Eight of the nine batter’s recorded an RBI in the first frame. Maya Brady belted a two-run opposite field bomb, Kinsley Washington hit a home run the next at-bat and freshman Savannah Pola collected her first career hit with an RBI-double. Oh, Holly Azevedo also threw a five inning no-hitter. The Bruins closed Opening Day with 22-0 victory over the visiting Matadors.

10. Taylor Roby opens the season stingy. Louisville’s ace shut out host Florida Atlantic in a 2-0 win. As good as the redshirt senior has been, and she was a first-team All-ACC selection as a two-way threat a season ago, this was just her fifth seven-inning shutout in 54 career starts. Give Auburn grad transfer Chardonnay Harris time to settle. But her mixed results in the second game of the doubleheader doesn’t dispel the notion that the Cardinals will again lean heavily on Roby as the once-perennial postseason participant tries to bounce back from last season’s losing record. Roby’s three-run home run in the nightcap helped secure an 11-6 win.

11. Sarah Lehman wasn’t the highest profile transfer in the offseason. She wasn’t even the highest profile transfer from Iowa, not with Lauren Shaw going to UCLA. But she played her part to perfection in her first start for DePaul. Pitching in the dome next to the Ballpark at Rosemont (home of Athletes Unlimited), Lehman blanked Valparaiso on three hits in an 8-0 run-rule win. If the Blue Demons have a complement to Natalie Halvorson in the circle, the Big East is going to get interesting.

12. Charlotte by a field goal. Charlotte and Virginia played a football score season opener, with Charlotte beating the Cavaliers 10-7. The teams combined for 19 hits and 13 RBIs. Kourtney Gremillion hit a 3-run home run for Charlotte.

BONUS: Alcorn State played the first night game on campus in school history, beating Kentucky State 13-0 in five innings in the opener. The new lights were installed nearly a month ago at a cost of $300,000. The project began in the spring of 2020, but was delayed by Covid. Dr. Felecia Nave, the first female President of Alcorn State, threw out the first pitch to commemorate the occasion.

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