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What did OU fans know about their spark

Dec 02, 2023

Oklahoma's Rylie Boone (right) and Avery Hodge celebrate scoring during Thursday's 2-0 win over Stanford.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Shane Eicher was sitting down the right-field line during Oklahoma's critical fifth inning against Stanford at the Women's College World Series on Thursday.

The Owasso High School softball coach was watching his former star Rylie Boone at the plate during a key moment. The Sooners hadn't scored against Stanford ace NiJaree Canady and things were getting antsy inside the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium

Boone, as she's done at OU and Owasso, kept the rally going with a single. Two batters later, she joined pinch-runner Avery Hodge crossing the plate in Oklahoma's 2-0 first-round win.

Jordy Bahl tossed a complete-game shutout as Sooners conquer Stanford and their its ace NiJaree Canady. Video courtesy of NCAA

Was the moment much like Eicher had seen at Owasso, where Boone was an all-state player?

"You never doubt Rylie," Eicher said. "Rylie has always been good at making something happen. Even at OU, she's the spark that gets them going. She did it against Clemson. She's done it a couple other times this year. She's just a competitor and such a good hitter that it didn't surprise me one bit."

Riley and her teammates will play Tennessee in a Saturday winner's bracket WCWS game. First pitch is 2 p.m.

Boone's single energized the partisan OU crowd and fed Jayda Coleman's run-scoring at-bat.

"Every time Boone gets on, I know we’re going to start rolling. Every time she jumps up and she's like this, I’m like ‘Here we go.’ She is a party starter," Coleman said.

"I don't think people talk about her enough. I don't think she gets enough recognition. She is one of the hardest-working people that I know. She's a great teammate. She's literally always in the dugout yelling in our ears. Every time Boone gets on, I know we’re going to start rolling. She knows how to flip that lineup around."

Eicher was seated next to legendary Owasso baseball coach Larry Turner. The pair had worked a Rams baseball camp earlier in the day.

"I called her (Thursday) night and told her how proud I was of her," Eicher said. "All of Owasso is proud of Rylie. I’m working a baseball camp and those kids are talking about Rylie Boone. Our baseball coaches are wearing Boone shirts. Our athletic director wears a Boone shirt.

"Everybody is pulling for Rylie. Not only is she a great player, she's a better kid."

Boone, a senior, has one more year of eligibility remaining if she opts to take it. The opportunity to become softball's first four-year national champions remains alive.

"It's just surreal," Eicher said. "Softball is so hard. There are so many good teams. The pitcher from Stanford yesterday was incredible. For all that OU has continued to do, you just have to tip your hat. Those kids are incredible."

Utah pitching coach Paige Parker is in a familiar setting: Oklahoma City.

"It's hard to kind of wrap my head around the fact that I was here five years ago as a player and I’m now here as a coach," Parker told the Tulsa World earlier this week. "It's just crazy. It's a really, really special place and holds so many memories for me. And now to be here with our team, it's something that's really special and something that I will cherish for a really long time."

The Utes are playing in a Friday night elimination game against Oklahoma State. Utah lost 4-1 to Washington in a first-round contest earlier in the day.

Parker played for the Sooners from 2015-18. She was a member of two national championship teams (2016-17) and was an OU volunteer assistant (2020) before joining the Tulsa staff as a full-time assistant in 2021. She's been at Utah for the past two seasons.

After experiencing the WCWS as a player, what advice is she giving her Utah pitchers?

It's something she learned from Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso.

"Yes, we’re going to work hard. Yes, we’re going to compete at the highest level. But also enjoy it and don't be afraid to enjoy the little moments that you have with your teammates," Parker said. "When you are on the field and look up at the fans for the first time, that's something that you will remember for the rest of your life."

The Southeastern Conference announced its championship sites on Friday.

Oklahoma will host the 2032 SEC championship in softball, the school's future conference announced following spring meetings.

The Sooners have played in the Big 12 championship at Hall of Fame Stadium since the league's inception in 1996. After the 2024 campaign, OU will move to the SEC.

The 2025 SEC championship will be played at the University of Georgia.


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The top-seeded Sooners are favored to win their third straight title, but teams like Tennessee, Florida State and Oklahoma State could challenge OU.

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Tulsa World Sports Writer

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