By Steve Beideck
Less than two weeks after leading Oklahoma to its latest Women’s College World Series title, Jordyn Bahl was at the Memorial Stadium in her home state explaining to a group of reporters why it was so good to be back in Nebraska.
Bahl had spent most of the past two years 455 miles from Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, in the shadows of OU’s Memorial Stadium, helping lead the Sooners to their sixth and seventh WCWS titles.
The Papillion-La Vista graduate was the ace of the OU pitching staff both seasons. She posted identical 22-1 win-loss records with 397 strikeouts in 288.2 innings pitched the last two seasons.
Bahl was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 WCWS on the strength of the wins and saves earned in the 2-0 championship series sweep of Florida. Bahl was injury-free in 2023, unlike when she had to miss time in the postseason before with a stress fracture in her right arm.
Bahl got the final nine outs of the championship-clinching victory June 8 over the Gators and finished the season with a 0.90 ERA. Recalculate that number from March 1 after OU shook off some early season learning moments and Bahl’s ERA dropped to 0.47.
Her career ERA at Oklahoma was precisely 1.00, the second-best in Oklahoma history and the lowest mark since the pitching distance was increased from 40 to 43 feet in 1988. Bahl also left Norman with the second-best winning percentage (.957) and opponent batting average (.153) in OU history while ranking third in strikeouts per seven innings (9.62) and seventh in saves (5).
Through all of that, even those final games when the Sooners were chasing and eventually making history with their final record of 61-1, Bahl said Tuesday she couldn’t shake the bout of homesickness that stayed with her throughout her time in Norman.
“I’ve always been a big homebody,” Bahl said. “Even in my freshman year I had pretty strong feelings of homesickness. But every freshman does. Then my second year, instead of those feelings going away, they continued to worsen.
“That’s when I started just knowing my heart was always at home.”
Both Bahl and Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle said the past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind as Bahl decided to return to Nebraska and play her final two seasons of softball for the Huskers.
“It was a week of a lot of highs and then also some low feelings,” Bahl said. “Just because it was hard to leave what has been so great the last two years as far as just the people and everything. But then you have to break it to your teammates and your coaches that you’ve decided to make the decision to come home.
“That was kind of sad. But once I got home and just started to settle in and unpack and everything, finally it started to sink in that this is real and I’m not going to have to leave home again. That’s just been a feeling of just happiness, relief, joy. A long week, but a good week.”
Revelle said she was returning from attending a funeral in Iowa when an incoming call from Bahl popped onto the display screen in her car. Wasting no time to answer the call, Revelle admitted she was surprised, but not because the 15 minutes they talked there was zero discussion about softball.
“I’m like, ‘Well, you better answer it,’” Revelle said. “It was really just a moment to reconnect and I got to tell her that when she moved in a different direction, there were never any hard feelings from any of our staff. We have always been Jordy Bahl fans, as a person first and athlete second. That never wavered.
“If she was calling me I was hoping that it wasn’t to tell me she was going to Creighton or Omaha, but that she had an interest in Nebraska. That certainly was what she was calling about. She needed to know that she would be returning to a place that is welcoming her with open arms.”
The talk took Revelle back to the times she had talked to Bahl about camps and other topics even before she got to high school. Even when she was 12 and 13, Revelle could sense there was something special about Bahl, and not just on the field.
“She’s matured as a young woman, but she was that person then,” Revelle said. “I was so blessed to have that time with Jordy before she decided to move in a different direction, and I’m really looking forward to being able to pick up where we left off.”
The open arms welcome scenario played itself out when Bahl was in Lincoln June 14 for her campus visit. During a stop at the training table for lunch, Gretna sisters Billie and Brooke Andrews came over and shared hugs and laughs with Bahl and the coaches. Those three had all played club softball together.
“They were some of the first people to call me when it came out what was happening,” Bahl said. “This team has a lot of strengths,” Bahl said. “I don’t want to walk in in any way feeling like I’m overstepping anything. That’s not what I want to do.
“I want to come into this program and help it whatever way I can. I just think our team is going to work hard all season to just leave it all out there, it’s in the Lord’s hands. Whatever happens, happens. You’re giving everything you can, that’s all you can ask for. It’s going to be fun to see what happens.”
Bahl had originally committed to Nebraska in eighth grade but reopened her commitment at the start of her junior year and eventually signed with Oklahoma. At that point in her life, Bahl said she didn’t yet understand what she needed outside of softball.
“At that point in my life, I wasn’t aware of how much I needed balance until you leave home and you’re seven hours away from everything that means so much more to you than the game itself,” Bahl said. “Then I realized I can’t love the game itself if I don’t have these other things in my life that I love so much.
“Everything gets out of whack. I think a lot of maturity, a lot of growing up. I’m thankful that I went down to Oklahoma. I learned a lot. I wouldn’t change anything; I believe it all happens for a reason. I had amazing opportunities down there. In those two years that I was down there my perspective on a lot of things changed.”
Revelle said she’s looking forward to learning more about the things Bahl learned from her time in Norman.
“If you understand her work ethic, you know why she’s continued to develop,” Revelle said. “Her work ethic has not only been in her physical game, (but) in her mental and emotional game. She was in a great environment in Oklahoma. The championship mindset is real.
“I look forward to leaning in and learning from her what she learned down there. We’re constant learners. I’m going to try to figure out some of those things that have helped her along the way.”