College softball: Former Sooner Lauren Chamberlain thinks comparisons to Jocelyn Alo are valid
OKLAHOMA CITY — Former Oklahoma star Lauren Chamberlain understands why so many compare Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo to her.
After all, Chamberlain matched the national freshman home run record with 30 in 2012. Alo plays for the same school and leads the nation with 28 homers as a freshman.
"I think they're (the comparisons) valid because it's a really strong power hitter who's making a lot of noise," said Chamberlain, who now plays professionally for the USSSA Pride in Viera, Florida. "If you go stat for stat comparisons, it's really crazy to see the numbers. She's staying pretty consistent to what I was doing my freshman year."
There's one significant difference.
"I would say she blows me out of the water with her strength," Chamberlain said. "We'll all see that in the next few years."
Chamberlain figured the comparisons were inevitable, so said she spoke with Alo about making a name for herself.
"The first thing I said to her when she came in was blaze your own path and create your name," Chamberlain said. "People are going to compare you, and I don't want her to have to live in that shadow. Don't be me, be you."
Being compared to Chamberlain is a big deal. Chamberlain is the all-time Division I leader with 95 home runs and a .960 slugging percentage. But Alo's freshman season has in some ways surpassed Chamberlain's. In 2012, Chamberlain hit .357. Alo entered the Women's College World Series with a team-leading .415 batting average. Alo has just 19 strikeouts, while Chamberlain had 29. And Alo has 46 walks to Chamberlain's 31.
Alo still could catch Chamberlain's freshman record. The Sooners lost their Women's College World Series opener to Washington on Thursday. They will play Arizona State in an elimination game on Saturday.
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said Alo is in position to make history because she approaches the game the right way.
"I think she has a real good eye," Gasso said. "She works diligently on her craft and practices hard, works hard, works extra, loves to get as much live as she can. She's a learner. She absorbs."
Chamberlain said Alo benefits from having established players around her. Much of the team that won the past two national titles is still around. Sydney Romero, a first-team NFCA All-American, is the leadoff hitter, right ahead of Alo in the lineup. Shay Knighten, the MVP of last year's Women's College World Series, hits third. Nicole Pendley, who was the No. 12 pick in the National Pro Fastpitch League draft, bats fourth.
Even when those players leave, Chamberlain expects Alo to thrive.
"It's only hard to maintain if you can't adjust, and I feel she's adjusting because she's learning to hit bad pitches," Chamberlain said. "I think that's going to be huge for her moving forward."
Oklahoma pitcher Paige Parker, a senior with eight career WCWS wins, said she is impressed with how Alo has come along.
"I think what stands out about her is just her composure and her ability to make adjustments on the fly so quickly," Parker said. "That's one of the toughest things I think about college softball, is being able to make adjustments and make them quickly, and she does it very well for how young she is."
Gasso said Alo has the right combination of athletic ability, intensity and focus to continue to improve.
"She is more than anything just a competitor," Gasso said. "When she puts her mind to something, you can't stop her, and I have not seen a freshman so goal-oriented and hitting those goals like they're nothing. She's a special athlete."