OKLAHOMA CITY — Giselle Juarez walked to the field at Hall of Stadium and laughed.
The junior pitcher spoke with her catcher, Lynnsie Elam, before making her Women's College World Series debut for Oklahoma Thursday.
She realized how much has changed for her in a year.
Juarez last pitched at the WCWS on June 2, 2018, and saw her sophomore season at Arizona State end at the hands of OU.
A season later, Juarez is near the end of her first season at OU after transferring over the offseason and led the country's top-seeded team to a 3-2 win over Alabama.
"I was talking to Elam, I don't know why, but when I was walking up to the field, I was like, 'This is kind of funny,'" Juarez said. "'The last time I was on this side, I was playing Oklahoma. Now I'm on their side.'
"It kind of made me laugh."
Juarez experienced déjà vu as the Sooners threw the ball around in the first inning despite it being her first time in an OU uniform at the World Series.
"Man, I feel like I've been here before," she recalls thinking.
Juarez was happy to be in that moment a season after OU beat Juarez and Arizona State 2-0.
In her return to Oklahoma City, Juarez picked up her first Women’s College World Series win and struck out nine batters in the process.
She let up four hits, including a home run from Alabama's Claire Jenkins in the fifth inning. The solo shot marked the first homer Juarez has given up since April 26.
Juarez didn't let the hiccup, however, deter her.
"I think I felt calm" Juarez said. "I knew my team had my back. But I think the thing that kept me calm, especially in the last inning, when I came back from the top of the sixth, Nicole saw me, she's like, 'Can we pray together?'
"I think that was just really amazing because it's something that I felt like spoke to me. It was just, like, really needed in that moment. I think it was really cool that we could implement that in our game and give it to Him."
Juarez held the Tide scoreless for the final two frames and the Sooners scored a go-ahead run in the sixth to advance to Friday's winner's bracket game.
Her seven innings worked weren't flawless, but Juarez had the right support she needed to excel in the pressure situation.
"I thought she did well," OU coach Patty Gasso said. "I don't think it was one of her best games, because she was falling behind a little bit. ... But it's your first game on the mound. It's going to happen. She fought through it.
"The team kept saying, ‘We got you.’ I kept hearing them say, ‘We got you.’ Then she would come in the circle and say, Hey, don't worry, I got you. It was a big love fest in a good way."
Juarez is now 27-1 in her first season with the Sooners.
Up next, OU will face Oklahoma State at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Buettner writes for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI News Service publication.