Cow­girls beat Cy­clones

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

Ok­la­homa State downed Iowa State 5-1 on Sat­ur­day to take fifth place in the Big 12 soft­ball cham­pi­onship.

Fifth place in the Big 12 soft­ball cham­pi­onship clearly wasn’t what Ok­la­homa State set out to achieve af­ter record­ing their high­est reg­u­lar-sea­son fin­ish in the con­fer­ence in nearly two decades.

But af­ter a frus­trat­ing Fri­day, the Cow­girls had to make the best of what was be­fore them Sat­ur­day at ASA Soft­ball Hall of Fame Sta­dium.

Af­ter a slow start, the Cow­girls found their spark and put away Iowa State 5-1 in the fifth-place game, giv­ing them­selves some much­needed pos­i­tive mo­men­tum head­ing next week’s NCAA re­gion­als.

“Ob­vi­ously, the Big 12 tour­na­ment didn’t end up the way we wanted it to be, but I think end­ing with a good win, get­ting our bats live again and our pitch­ers throw­ing pretty well is a good way to go into the NCAA Tour­na­ment,” said OSU sec­ond base­man Madi Sui Montgomery, who played a key role in liven­ing up the Cow­girl bats.

Montgomery ripped a two-run home run to cen­ter field in the fifth in­ning, her 15th of the year, setting the OSU sin­gle-sea­son record — an achieve­ment she’ll likely re­flect on with more sig­nif­i­cance later.

“I’m try­ing not to fo­cus on that, just keep hit­ting the ball,” she said. “But I think it’ll be cool to say that one day.”

OSU’s Vanessa Shippy had a pair of hits, rais­ing her bat­ting av­er­age to .463 for the sea­son, and Whit­ney Whitehorn added two, in­clud­ing her fifth dou­ble of the sea­son. OSU fin­ished with eight hits as a team and struck out only once.

“I think this was a re­ally good game for us to build on,” Whitehorn said. “We re­ally needed it. For us, we needed to play well, and this was a game to build on and go straight into the NCAA Tour­na­ment.”

If noth­ing else, it got the bad taste of Fri­day’s play — a 7-1 loss to Bay­lor and a 7-6 win over Texas Tech that OSU nearly let slip away — out of the Cow­girls’ mouths.

“I’m a lit­tle more pleased with the way we came out,” OSU coach Kenny Ga­jew­ski said. “Our en­ergy was way bet­ter. I chal­lenged our team last night. Didn’t yell and scream, just chal­lenged them about what we re­ally want, and who we are, and what the stan­dards are here.

The stan­dards have changed.

“We needed this. We needed to play a more com­plete game. I thought we pitched OK. I thought we had some re­ally good at-bats. We did some team of­fen­sive stuff that maybe doesn’t show in the box score.”

Em­mie Robert­son gave up a lead­off home run in the top of the first in­ning, but al­lowed only two more hits over four in­nings to earn the win. Sa­man­tha Clak­ley got the save with three in­nings of shutout ball, al­low­ing three hits and strik­ing out two.

Now the Cow­girls turn their at­ten­tion to the NCAA re­gional pair­ings, which will be an­nounced at 9 p.m. Sun­day on ESPN2. OSU is out of the run­ning for a host berth, but could be in line for a fa­vor­able spot as a re­gional No. 2 seed.

“Now we get some time off,” Ga­jew­ski said. “We’ll find out where we’re headed to, and we’ll find out what that brings.”

Scott Wright swright@ oklahoman.com

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