Oklahoma Freshman Jayda Coleman Provides Sooners' Spark
Jayda Coleman brings the energy. And when the Oklahoma freshman takes the field, she makes her presence known.
“Jayda definitely brings something fresh to softball that many players love to see, though some don’t,” Oklahoma senior Nicole Mendes said. “Something so unique about her is that she is true to herself and playing her game her way that makes her so electric.”
Coleman relishes her role.
“I have been told that I am the hype man,” Coleman said. “I do whatever I can to get this team hyped up and I take so much pride in that.”
As Softball America's No. 1 recruit in the class of 2020, Coleman came to Norman with high expectations. And she's lived up to them this season.
Coleman has started all 50 games this year for the Sooners, posting a .478 batting average with eight home runs and 46 RBI, as well as a team-high 19 stolen bases on 23 attempts. There also doesn't seem to be a play that Coleman can’t make in the outfield.
“Jayda is so much fun in the outfield,” Mendes said. “She brings so much energy. Whenever she has her sights set on something, if she is not catching it, she is going to be making a play somewhere. I think that gives our pitchers a really strong sense of confidence.”
Despite her gold-glove worthy season, Coleman didn’t come to Norman thinking she'd be in the outfield. Coleman had her heart set on being the Sooners' shortstop. But with junior Grace Lyons occupying that position, head coach Patty Gasso had a problem to deal with.
“Jayda Coleman is an absolute athlete,” Gasso said. “It doesn’t take her long to learn anything. I had to talk her into (playing in the outfield) a little bit. Most of the action is in the infield, but this kid has had more action in the outfield than anyone that I have ever seen.
“It is because she can make plays that others can’t make. Instead of a ball bouncing in front of her, she will lay out and make that play or she will raise her hands like she is going to catch it and let it bounce and make the force out at second. She is really smart like that.”
Coleman added that she attacks the ball in any way she can to make a play for her teammates and to have her pitcher’s back.
If there is a single play that epitomizes what Coleman does for Oklahoma, that play came on May 15 in the Big 12 Tournament Championship Game at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
No. 1 Oklahoma held a 6-2 lead in the fifth inning against No. 6 Oklahoma State, but the Cowgirls started to gain significant momentum with solo home runs from Kiley Naomi and Alysen Febrey.
Hayley Busby then blasted what looked like a back-to-back shot, but Coleman ran to the fence, jumped up and robbed the home run to steal all the momentum for the Sooners. After the play, Coleman yelled, “I got your back” to senior pitcher Shannon Saile and energized the Oklahoma faithful in Oklahoma City.
“I finally made the dream play of all dream plays,” Coleman said. “Me getting to make that play for our pitcher when we really needed it was one of the best feelings ever. Seeing your teammates respond to you after making a play is literally why you play the game. You want to do great for your teammates and you want your teammates to do great.”
Coleman completes a fantastic freshmen trio for the Sooners with infielder Tiare Jennings and pitcher Nicole May.
“When we first got on campus, we already had chemistry,” Coleman said. “We just really clicked. Since then, we have really built a bond on and off the field. I pretty much do everything with those girls, and just to be able to share memories with them on the field is priceless.”
Coleman wants to make a deep run into the Women’s College World Series this year, not only for her own dreams, but also for her teammates' dreams—specifically those of super seniors Mendes, Saile and Giselle Juarez.
“This is everything for the super seniors,” Coleman said. “They want to go deep into this NCAA Tournament. That would be a dream for them and for me. We have been grinding with this since last June with Zoom calls to do everything we could to get prepared with COVID. If we can make it all the way, it would be a dream come true for everyone.”