Editor’s note: This article is part of a 4-part series, “Launch Mode,” in which the Saturday Down South team explains how, in just 20 years, the game of college softball has forever changed. You can see the entire series here.

The thing that sold Patty Gasso on the NCAA’s all-time leader in career home runs wasn’t watching Jocelyn Alo hit home runs. Funny enough, it wasn’t even watching Alo play the sport she’d become so dominant at over her 5 years with Gasso’s Oklahoma Sooners. No, it was a YouTube clip from March 2015 of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) state wrestling final.

Alo, competing for Kahuku in the 184-pound girls division, is uncompromising and unrelenting. She picks her moments. She studies. Honing the qualities that make great hitters, Alo seeks an advantage on the mat.

“I’d never seen a girl wrestle in high school before,” Gasso told Saturday Down South.

The first thing that stands out when you watch Alo in a batter’s box is how exceptionally strong she is.

Good swimmers can become better through training, specifically crafting their body.

Great swimmers are great swimmers because they were born to be swimmers. There’s work, obviously, but sometimes an athlete just has it. It’s the same with most sports. The elite are elite because they were born to do what they do.

“Strong lower half, strong core, she’s just a strong, strong young lady”

Patty Gasso

In an age of home run hunters and stalwart swingers, Jocelyn Alo is the class of the competition because she was made to do this.

“Strong lower half, strong core, she’s just a strong, strong young lady,” Gasso says.

Alo is down on the mat for a moment, but she’s quickly back in control and on top of her opponent. Then Gasso watches Alo dislocate her opponent’s shoulder. She wins 5-4. At the final buzzer, her opponent crumples over, hanging her arm down in front of her body in clear and obvious pain.

“I’m like, ‘I need her,’” Gasso remembers pointing at her computer screen and saying.

Oregon offered the Hauula, Hawaii, native a scholarship in the 7th grade. California offered her as an 8th-grader and she committed. Three years later, as a junior, Alo reopened her recruitment. JT Gasso, Patty’s son and OU’s hitting coach, went all in.

From someone who’s spent time in both places, there’s nothing in Oklahoma that serves as a callback to Hawaii. Specifically not in Norman, Oklahoma. In Norman, there is work. In Gasso’s program, there is pursuit. To pick the Sooners would be to commit to the grind. Why do players get into the Gasso School of Softball and get better up and down the board?

“I just always feel like the job’s never done,” JT Gasso said recently during an interview with D1Softball’s Tara Henry. “When people come in here, you kind of know what you’re getting into. … There’s just always work to be done, the feeling that someone’s always out there that’s better than you. We just don’t stop learning, developing, and getting better.”

OU invests in its program. The Gassos pour everything into their players. Certainly, that appealed to Alo.

Against Texas A&M in Oklahoma’s Regional final on May 22, Alo completely unlaced a ball over the left-field foul post. It was ruled foul. Patty Gasso asked the officiating crew if they could review it and was told they’d need a post that was about 100 feet higher to know for sure.

“I did think it was (fair),” Alo said when asked about the shot after the game. “I watched it.”

She wanted it.

Oklahoma was up 17-0 on the Aggies before the inning even began. And as part of a 9-run first inning, Alo got hold of a ball during her second plate appearance of the opening frame and sent it over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.

Alo is undeniable.

Her first plate appearance that day, she sent a ball deep, careening off the left-field wall. It was five feet shy of sailing over. When the order worked its way back around and Alo stepped to the plate again, with the Sooners up 7-0 and the atmosphere buzzing, Alo crushed a 1-0 pitch to almost the exact same spot. This one had the clearance.

It was her 115th career home run.

On that day, though, Alo did something maybe even more impressive considering the way she attacks pitches. She pushed her batting average above .500 for the season.

“She’s made differently,” Patty Gasso told reporters after the game. “She doesn’t get too high. She doesn’t get too low. Doesn’t overthink it, but she’s always ready. She always feels and knows she’s going to win.”

"She doesn’t get too high. She doesn’t get too low. Doesn’t overthink it, but she’s always ready. She always feels and knows she’s going to win."

When she left the ballpark that day, she had a steely look on her face. OU won 20-0, run-ruling the Aggies to advance to the Supers for the 12th straight season while claiming the largest victory in the history of the NCAA softball tournament. The hitter looked focused on what came next.

A freshman phenom

Alo was immediately prodigious as a freshman. She hit .420 during the 2018 season while starting all 62 games. She finished the season ranked second nationally in RBIs (72) and third in slugging percentage (.977).

She led the country with 30 home runs — tying Oklahoma’s single-season record in the process. (She broke that record last season by hitting 34 — the 2nd-most in NCAA history.)

As the sport was changing — hitters becoming more prolific, strategy shifting from stringing hits to swinging big — Alo was the perfect face for a revolution. She homered in five consecutive games during mid-March that first season.

At the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, California, Alo homered twice in a 7-2 win over Arizona State, then again a day later in a 10-0 win over BYU.

At the outset of that Palm Springs trip, Alo had played in nine career college games. By the time the team left to come back to Norman, she was the next Lauren Chamberlain, who left Norman as the NCAA’s all-time home run queen.

Alo didn’t want to be, but she was. Chamberlain, a Sooner from 2012-15, hit 95 home runs in 220 career games. She broke the sport’s career home runs record that had stood for a decade. Now, here was Alo three years later looking like she might be able to do the same thing.

“Afterwards, we kind of chatted a little bit about, you know, ‘How are you feeling, how’s your freshman year going so far?’” Chamberlain told The Oklahoman’s Ryan Aber. “She had mentioned all of the comparisons that people were making, like, ‘Man, you’re the next Lauren Chamberlain. We finally have that person.’ And we had talked about how badly she wanted to be the one and only Jocelyn.”

Alo’s 30 homers matched Chamberlain’s single-season school mark.

What came next was a very public struggle. Lofty expectations gave way to a funk which gave way to a slump and through the first 39 games of her sophomore season, Alo had hit just 7 balls out of play. Gasso decided to sideline her star player for two weeks. No softball. Work on the mental component.

When Alo returned, she homered in a 9-2 win over Texas and then twice in an 8-0 win over Wichita State. She finished the year strong, recording 16 home runs in 59 appearances.

Since the start of the 2021 campaign, Alo has 63 more home runs. One every 19 at-bats.

“I think she, in her mind, is like, ‘I’m never going to miss a moment again and I’m going to do things right. I’m going to be a good example to the younger players,’” Patty Gasso told 247Sports’ Joey Helmer. “She does have a demeanor that is really very much like Lauren Chamberlain. You could walk up and not know whether she struck out four times or hit four home runs. And that’s the beauty of her balance in her mind.”

Home run heard ’round the globe

Over an eight-game stretch earlier this season, Alo was walked a combined 16 times.

Long Beach State wanted nothing to do with the Home Run Queen, walking her twice. With a single homer five days earlier against Texas State, Alo had tied Chamberlain’s record with 95 career homers.

No one wanted to be the team that gave her the record. Everyone knew they would be if they gave her a chance. Perhaps there’s no greater testament to her greatness than that fact.

Cal State Fullerton walked her twice. Then Arizona walked her. Then Tennessee did it three times. Then Utah did it twice and Minnesota did it three times and Baylor did it and Cal did it two more times until, finally, in Hawaii and against Hawaii, Alo was given her moment.

“It definitely was a surreal moment, everything coming full circle and getting to do this in front of my home crowd was super exciting,” Alo said after the game. “Looking up after, I was like ‘Dang, I’m so blessed to be home.’ … It’s definitely a weight lifted off my shoulders. I feel like now I can breathe, the team can breathe and we can continue to elevate our game from here on out.”

She’s hit another 21 since.

With Oklahoma set to defend its 2021 national title at the 2022 Women’s College World Series, Alo will likely set aside all that glory that comes with her crown in pursuit of a ring. She didn’t want to be interviewed for this piece. Maybe at this point in the season, all that needs to be said has been said. Everyone wants to talk about Jocelyn Alo. Maybe she just wants to win a championship for Oklahoma.

Relentless pursuit. The job’s never done.

As a super senior, this is it. One more task ahead of her with the name “Oklahoma” across the front of her jersey. But if the Sooners are to continue their reign, they’ll need Jocelyn Alo not to be the next Lauren Chamberlain or the Home Run Queen or the star of the show or anything like that.

They’ll need her to just be her. The rest will come.

“She’s got a lot of passion and emotion, and she brings that same stuff here to our team,” Patty Gasso says.

I asked the OU head coach after the Texas A&M win if she thinks Alo is inevitable.

“I guess the answer is yes,” she responded. Not that she thinks Alo is going to hit one every time she gets a clean look. Not even that she thinks Alo will hit one a game. But, when it matters, she knows her star will come through.

“I just know she’s going to hit it hard somewhere, I always feel that,” Gasso said. “She’s born that way.”

Executive Editor Chris Wright contributed to this report.