Oklahoma Softball Ace Didn’t Throw Game 2 Because She’s Tired

Oklahoma Softball Kelsey Stevens

Game two of the Women’s College World Series between Oklahoma and Auburn played tonight.

What could potentially be the last game of the season for both teams, would lead one to assume that teams and coaches will leave it all on the field tonight. A potential win or go home game for Auburn, and a chance to clinch another Women’s College World Series title for Oklahoma.

Paige Parker had pitched every game of the WCWS for Oklahoma, she hadn’t lost a single game, but Kelsey Stevens got the call to take the mound for the Sooners tonight. Not a knock on Kelsey Stevens here, because she’s proven that she can certainly hold her own…but Paige Parker, your ace…?

All of twitter and the announcers on TV justified the move by noting how many innings Paige Parker has thrown. She’s tired, and rightfully so, but this is the World Series damn it!

She needed one of these speeches before the game and she would have been good to go.

You’ve got potentially one game left of the season, and a chance to win a national title. What exactly are you resting for? Want to keep her arm safe for a future career in the MLB?

[UPDATE 6/8 1:00pm]

Auburn went on to win the game with a walk-off grand slam in the 8th inning of last night’s WCWS game 2, forcing a game 3. The twitter reaction to this opinion was wild, so I felt it needed an update.

In a post-game interview, Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso told the media that it was her decision not to throw ace Paige Parker. Here’s some more clarification on why I have a problem with that, and some of the arguments that have been given.

She’s thrown 5 straight days, she’s tired and needs a rest.

If you’ve thrown 20 straight days, what’s the difference in throwing 21? If you’ve thrown 5, what’s the difference in 6 with the TITLE ON THE LINE. She looked fine in all of those 5 straight starts. Taryne Mowatt won Arizona a national title on the back of her throwing over 1,000 pitches, starting 7 straight games in an 8 day span. When you’re in that competitive moment, your body feels no pain. You don’t feel tired or weak. You feel like this is the most important night of your life, and you’ve got a whole university on your back…and you love it. In the 2001 World Series, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson threw nearly 70% of the Diamondback’s pitches in the series. In the 2014 World Series, Madison Bumgarner threw 35% of his team’s pitches in the series. To put this into perspective, Kansas City’s leading thrower, Yordano Ventura, only threw 19%. It can be done, and it can be done sufficiently. 

Resting the ace worked for Gasso in the past, and worked for Florida during their WCWS title in 2015.

Much different circumstances. On the surface, it looks like a good argument to point out that Lauren Haeger, the 2015 Player of the Year didn’t pitch game one of the WCWS series in 2015 after a long outing the game before. The difference? In 2015 Haeger threw 50% of her teams innings. Ocasio (who ended up starting game 1) threw 32% of the teams innings that season. She was a prime #2 pitcher for the Gators. This year, Paige Parker threw 60% of her teams innings and Kelsey Stevens threw just 19%. Since April 24th, there were only 3 GAMES that Parker did not pitch in. She’s the team’s horse, the backbone. OU in 2013, and UF in 2015 are much deeper pitching staffs, and thus completely different circumstances. 2016 Oklahoma softball doesn’t have a staff like those previous teams.

She’ll be available and well rested for game 3.

As a rule of thumb, shown by the history of playoff and championship sports, if you’ve got a chance to clinch a series (or a game) you do it NOW. Think about it like this, it’s game 6 of the World Series, 2 run lead in the 9th inning. Do you throw your closer in, who just threw yesterday, with a chance to clinch the series? Or do you put your middle reliever in the game, knowing that if you don’t win tonight, it’s okay you’ve still got tomorrow’s game?

Oklahoma ended up giving up 7 runs before the walk off grand slam in the 8th. Do we think Paige Parker would have given up 7 runs in her “tired” state? I don’t.