Oklahoma State’s softball team did not play in the Women’s College World Series in 2016, so the season ended in a disappointing manner for the team and the fans. While some of the players that will be at Oklahoma State next year have already signed, there are still many that will be playing in Oklahoma for the first time since their time at Oklahoma State. There is also more than a little uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff.
In the calendar year that will live in infamy for the world of college softball, the World Championship will be played for the first time since 2006, when Oklahoma City was host and the Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 12-0 in the finals. The championship game was the first championship game ever played at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, a state-of-the-art facility that is the new home of the Sooners.
The WBC was beginning to make some noise before it became a reality. The All-American Games, an event that combines a World Cup and a Pan-American Games, was due to be held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, from July 5 to July 14, 2017. That means World Baseball Classic (WBC) participants like Japan, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Canada, Venezuela, and Cuba, but also Olympic athletes like the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia. The World Baseball Classic will be held in Japan in March 2018, but this article’s focus is on the event’s return to Oklahoma City in 2017.. Read more about ncaa softball and let us know what you think.OCLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma. — Carolan Bledsoe enjoyed staying up all night earlier this week sewing the shirts of all the teams that qualified for the Women’s College World Series, something she has done every year since 1997. Every year but one: Last year, when the coronavirus pandemic cancelled NCAA spring sports and championships, including what should have been the 30th anniversary celebration of WCWS Oklahoma City. A year ago, as reality began to set in, friends asked Bledsoe … What are you going to do if you can’t sew the patches? She had no idea. Last year left such a void, Bledsoe said. 2 Connected When she got the call to sew up the patches this year, Bledsoe got to work. But she didn’t stop there. She was so excited to return to USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium and the WCWS for the first time since 2019 that she stayed up until 1 a.m. Thursday she baked cookies to give to all the friends she has made over the years at the stadium. Like clockwork, all those acquaintances and friends came to greet her at her usual spot at third base for the game between James Madison and No. 1 Oklahoma. It’s just great to see the people we’ve met here for years and years and years, said Bledsoe, who was joined by her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the first game. People are screaming and hugging each other. Because it’s a great experience and people love to come back. Just as Bledsoe finishes his sentence, Laurie Burns, in her Oklahoma outfit, enters. Burns came from Fort Worth, Texas, to cheer on the Sooners, and the first thing she saw when she entered the stadium was Bledsoe. The first year Burns came to WCWS, about 15 years ago, he sat across from Bledsoe. They were the only Oklahoma fans in their area, so they banded together. Carolan Bledsoe, second from right, sews the WCWS patches on all of the players’ shirts. She has been involved with WCWS since the late 1990s and has made friends across the country. Andrea Adelson Last year was particularly difficult for Burns. She works in a facility where approximately 1,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported. She also contracted COVID-19 while working on her master’s in Oklahoma. To be here at full strength, without a mask, and doing what we think is normal is just amazing to me, Burns said. It brings tears to my eyes. I’m sure I’ll be crying all week. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so excited about how everything started. Throughout Thursday there was an undeniable sense of joy that you get when you’re in a full stadium at an event that brings so much energy, passion and friendship. Small gatherings were held everywhere, and even those attending the WCWS for the first time could feel the excitement that permeated the newly expanded stadium, complete with an upper deck that brought the capacity to 13,000. There was a sense of normality. The Oklahoma mascot walked down the hall and took pictures with the kids. Entire softball teams came in youth league jerseys. Very few fans wore masks. Nearly 13,000 fans attended the first day of the 2021 Women’s College World Series, in which unranked James Madison defeated No. 1 Oklahoma in eight innings. Joshua Gately/ESPN Images The first game between James Madison and Oklahoma was nearly sold out, although the noise of the crowd made it seem like every seat was filled, thanks in large part to the Suners’ large contingent. Teresa Beauchart Yoder and her daughter Nicole drove 18 hours from Harrisonburg, Virginia, to cheer on the unqualified Dukes. Sitting in a sea of Oklahoma fans did not diminish their excitement to be a part of an event they had always dreamed of. We felt like it was a unique opportunity, Boshart Yoder said. It was incredible. James Madison made it even more surprising when the Dukes stunned the #1 seeded Suners in their WCWS debut, winning 4-3 in eight innings on the strength of Odici Alexander’s excellent pitching. Throughout the game, James Madison’s small following drew attention with chants, including Go KK! when Alexander made a big throw. From their spot on the first base line, Bobby and Christina Walker caught everything that was happening. It was their first mutual softball game since playing in the Clearwater, Florida tournament in February 2020. On Wednesday, they celebrated their granddaughter’s 10th birthday and then made a four-hour trip from their home in Kansas. Bobby was so excited to be back at the stadium on Thursday that they arrived at the parking lot at 7:15 a.m., set up the tent and had coffee. They saw friends from Indiana who they had met in 2019. Then Bobby walked around the parking lot, stopping to greet familiar faces, including a friend from Kentucky, as if he were the mayor of the city. I just like it here, Bobby said. We love softball. And I talk to the people sitting in front of me, I talk to the people sitting behind me. That’s great. Christina and Bobby Walker made the four-hour drive from Kansas City to Oklahoma City to attend the Women’s College World Series. Andrea Adelson The WCWS not only brings friends and softball fans together, but it also connects Oklahoma City. Former Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick and former Oklahoma City Fire Chief Gary Marrs still volunteer at the event to set up the locker room for the players, as they have done for the past two decades. They were able to see the growth of the tournament first hand. When they started helping, there were no locker rooms in the stadium. The teams gathered in tents just behind the first and third baseline, and drinks were provided in coolers that Norick and Marrs had to constantly fill with ice. Now they can’t even find a quiet place to watch the games like they used to. It’s nice to see everyone again, to see the enthusiasm of the city and the fans, Norik said. I feel the same, the atmosphere is the same. Everyone seems happy. This of course contrasts with the situation last year. The cancellation of the event does not only affect the teams and players whose championship dreams have been shattered. Sue Hollenbeck, director of athletic affairs for Visit OKC, said last year’s event was already sold out when it was canceled in March. She estimates that the city itself has lost $24 million in economic impact in the region. The Oklahoma State Firemen’s Museum and the Oklahoma Railroad Museum, located across the street from the stadium, earn between $50,000 and $75,000 in parking fees alone during the week. A year ago, they were struggling to keep their doors open without the significant revenue stream of the softball tournament. Not far from the stadium entrance, the Edmond North High School girls softball team was selling water and lemonade as part of a major fundraiser for their program. Club President Tara Mitchell estimates they lost $8,000 last year without the WCWS. This year they were not allowed to walk down the aisles or sell drinks in the stadium. They hope to win $5,000. The Edmond North High School softball team is selling water and lemonade during the Women’s College World Series to raise $5,000. Andrea Adelson The parents and players were just happy to be back. As they sold drinks, Heather Laquey stopped for a moment as her daughter ran excitedly toward them. She just got her picture taken with former Oklahoma athlete Lauren Chamberlain. The camaraderie in the stadium was great, said Lackey, who had competed in the WCWS before but was collecting for Edmond North for the first time. Last year was so depressing. Our girls look forward to coming here every year, so it was a great opportunity to come back and support our team. There are also suppliers. Keith and Jeanne Graham operate a Classic Kettle Corn Truck that also sells corn dogs, funnel cakes and freshly squeezed lemonade. They drive their truck to events throughout Oklahoma City and surrounding cities, including this stadium. Keith estimates they lost $100,000 last year due to cancelled events. But Keith Graham said this year’s return to WCWS had nothing to do with giving anything back. It was a matter of reuniting with many of the people she and Jeanne had met in the ten years they had served clients at the event. There is usually a line of 40 people in front of the popular truck – the Corndogs sold out before the first game was over. Being open again,seeing people,being with people,it’s just….. normal. It’s amazing, says Keith Graham. This is very important. This is worth more than any sale. You don’t realize how much you miss it until it’s gone.
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