Familiar faces await Oklahoma as the Sooners clash with Oregon in Crucial Regional

NORMAN — On Selection Sunday, Patty Gasso knew it was a possibility.

But now it’s here.

The second-seeded Sooners defeated Cleveland State 9-0 in six innings on Friday after Oregon waltzed past Boston University 8-0 in five innings to set up a matchup between Gasso and her former assistant. Melyssa Lombardi.

Lombardi followed her playing career in Norman with a 21-year stint as Gasso’s assistant coach, winning four national titles before taking the helm of Oregon’s program.

More familiar faces populate the Ducks’ dugout, as former OU star Sydney Romero and former Sooners analyst Sam Marder serving as assistants on Lombardi’s staff.

Gasso admitted that she and Lombardi have avoided each other during the regular season, but the duo will take the field against each other for the first time at Love’s Field on Saturday at 2 p.m.

When: 2 p.m
Where: Love Field
Channel: ESPN+

“(It will be) weird, but fun,” Gasso said Friday. “I was able to bring her, Syd and her staff here. And that was really cool. It gave me something that allowed me to be on the field and not get caught up in emotions or anything. It was like we were doing this together. It was good.”

The Sooners are no strangers to seeing notable alumni in the opposing dugout.

Earlier this year, OU’s seniors competed in Houston against a former teammate, pitching coach Hope Trautwein.

Romero was a graduate assistant in Norman in both 2021 and 2022 as she helped the Sooners add a pair more national titles to their trophy case.

“I really love it,” OU outfielder Jayda Coleman said, “just to see the sport continue to grow and to see people like Syd Romero, where they’ve coached Oregon and Oregon is having a really good season.

“…Maybe I’m thinking about it a little bit because she’s always coaching me and stuff like that. She knows what kind of pitches I like and what I don’t like, but I think it’s really cool how we saw Hope and now we get to see Syd. It’s a nice little reunion.”

Once the first pitch is thrown, all those outside feelings will wash away.

While the Sooners have never faced the Ducks before, Oregon is familiar with OU ace Kelly Maxwell, who could be in line to start in the circle.

Oklahoma State hosted Oregon in last year’s Stillwater Super Regional, where Maxwell mowed through the Ducks’ lineup.

“It’s helpful,” Maxwell said Wednesday. “You can have a little confidence knowing that I know what they look like. Now a lot of the teams are very different, but some of them are definitely returners, so I do think that gives you a bit of an upper hand.

Oregon threw redshirt sophomore pitcher Elise Sokolski on Friday against Boston University, who was Lombardi’s best pitcher despite working his way back from a season-ending injury in 2023.

Right-handed Morgan Scott could be Lombardi’s choice to start against the Sooners as she has pitched the most for Oregon all year.

Scott enters the NCAA tournament with a 3.45 ERA, and she is holding opponents to a .280 batting average.

A win on Saturday would be crucial for both teams.

The winner between the Sooners and the Ducks will advance to Sunday’s regional final, where they only need to win one of the two games to avoid elimination from next weekend’s Super Regionals.

“I’m happy to be back,” Lombardi said Friday. “I like the stadium that was built here. It’s so deserved. So to come here and have the opportunity to practice with Marita Hynes (Field), but then to come here and play here in Oklahoma, where I started my career and also my coaching career, is a blessing.

“I’m excited and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”