Stunned and dejected, the Sooners slowly walked off the field.
Silent and discouraged, they embraced in a team huddle, blankly staring as Alabama celebrated the feat OU had in its fingertips.
Reflective and teary-eyed, they gathered in a solemn postgame press conference, trying to explain a stunning reversal that turned the Sooners' second NCAA softball title into the SEC's first, as Alabama captured the national crown with a 5-4 weather-delayed win in Wednesday's deciding game.
“It hurts,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “It hurts me. It hurts them. Because I don't want to let them go right now. They're playing good softball.”
And that's what stung the most.
The Sooners weren't just playing good softball, they were playing championship-level softball.
They proved that with an impressive 19-5 run to the top of the Big 12. They reaffirmed it with a dominant 8-0 postseason run to the final series. And they were on the verge of sealing it with an early 3-0 lead on Wednesday night.
But then the rain came. And the wild pitches came. And the Alabama runs came. And eventually, the title disappeared.
“It's just the way it happened,” Gasso said. “I guess it wasn't meant to be.”
But don't take this as a disappointing ending to a somber story. It isn't a veteran-laden team that crumpled at the finish line of its final run. Far from it.
The Sooners are a supremely talented young squad, with four freshmen and only one senior in the starting lineup.
Lauren Chamberlain, the leader of OU's talented first-year players, returns to anchor the offense. With two home runs on Wednesday, Chamberlain finished the season with 30, adding to the single-season school record she already owned.
Protecting her in the order is Jessica Shults, OU's emotional leader and junior catcher who hit .385 with 20 homers and 65 RBIs.
And, most importantly, OU gets National Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts back.
Ricketts, who's presence turns OU from legit contender to title favorite, ended the season 37-9 with a 1.12 ERA, also contributing 17 homers and 49 RBIs to the offense.
“It's pretty exciting to know that we have so many people coming back,” Shults said. “I feel blessed to be a part of this team and have my best friends with me.”
So a return to the Women's College World Series isn't a given. But with the talent, added experience and newfound motivation, it would be tough to bet against them getting back to Oklahoma City.
And if the Sooners do, maybe they can make amends for Wednesday night.
“We've been very, very blessed to be in an opportunity to play for a national championship, and I couldn't be more proud,” Gasso said. “It wasn't our time. We know that. We know when it's right. We'll be back, and it will be ours.”