PHOENIX – Although Jocelyn Erickson and Grace Lyons hail from Phoenix and played softball at Sandra Day O’Connor High School, their age difference kept them from sharing the field.
Until now, on the world’s biggest stage with the Oklahoma Sooners.
The NCAA Women’s College World Series began Wednesday in Oklahoma City, with the Sooners riding a historic 52-game winning streak. The Sooners won the opener 5-0 over Florida State to take a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-three series. A victory Thursday would clinch the title.
“What separated both Lyons and Erickson from the rest of the players was their work ethic, competitive edge and their humbleness,” Sandra Day O’Connor softball coach Melissa Hobson said. “They know what they want to do and where they want to go and the standards are set high.”
Arizona is also represented by sophomore Cydney Sanders and senior Alynah Torres, who are in their first year with the Sooners after transferring from Arizona State. Junior Allison Royalty is now on the Seminoles, after spending two seasons at ASU.
Sanders was the 2022 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and broke ASU’s single-season school record with 21 home runs. Torres attended Cactus High in Glendale, before spending three seasons with ASU and was a 2022 All-Pac-12 selection.
Lyons is in her fifth year for the Sooners as a two-time national champion to accompany a long list of personal accolades. Erickson is a true freshman who committed to the Sooners in the fall of eighth grade and remained true to her commitment.
“Missy (Melyssa) Lombardi was the Sooners assistant coach at the time when Jocey committed,” said Jeanine Erickson, Jocelyn’s mother. “This was before the rule was set where you couldn’t commit to a school until your junior year in high school but it was important to Jocey to honor her commitment.”
In her junior year at Sandra Day O’Connor, Erickson suffered a severe knee injury, tearing her ACL and her inside and outside meniscus while playing basketball for the Eagles. This injury would sideline her for a year but did not keep her away from the team.
“Even with her injury, Jocey never missed a game,” Hobson said. “She was on the sidelines every game leading the team and the only time she would miss practice was when she was rehabbing and doing her physical training.”
Erickson returned to the team her senior year on a mission. She had a .624 batting average with 25 home runs and 58 RBIs en route to winning the 2022 Gatorade Arizona Softball Player of the Year.
“That injury changed her insight on everything,” Jeanine said. “She realized everything can be taken away from you in a second, so Jocey put everything she had in her recovery. The growth and character she showed in that transition amazed me as a mom.”
That strong will and character are big reasons why a true freshman is able to see the field on a team loaded with players who are exercising a fifth-year option due to COVID.
Lyons is one of the players who took advantage of that possibility as she plays her final games with the Sooners.
Erickson and Lyons never played together at Sandra Day O’Connor because of their age difference but the extra year of eligibility for Lyons gave them the opportunity to do just that at Oklahoma.
“The Sooners program was really an extension of what was established at the high school which was really unusual,” Grace’s mother, Erin, said. “Coach Hobson prepared her players for the next level with leadership and the development of these young ladies was similar at Oklahoma.”
The development has been evident with Lyons, who has increased her batting average in every season with the Sooners and ranks fourth all time in games played at 263.
Both Lyons and Erickson have been successful in their sport from the time they set foot on the field as freshmen at Sandra Day O’Connor. In 2015, Lyons led the Eagles to a state championship and in 2019 Erickson did the same.
Now they wear the same uniform in Oklahoma City looking to finish their only season together as national champions.