By: Ryan Williams
The sounds of fans filled the stadium on a lovely Friday afternoon. Fans of all ages could be spotted in Cyclone attire and Sooner gear. The field was cold, but the bats were RED HOT.
The consensus number one Oklahoma Sooners were in town on a business trip. The final score of 9-7 with Oklahoma winning might not be what cyclone fans wanted, but it wasn’t what Oklahoma wanted either. Scoring 7 runs on 5 hits puts Iowa State in a league of their own, since nobody has put more runs up on Oklahoma in a game. Unfortunately moral victories don’t show up in the stat columns. Inconsistency didn’t just extend to the Cyclones, but also the officiating whose called strikes and balls were questionable leading to confusion from pitchers and batters alike. Following a confusing strike call Coach Pinkerton paid a visit to the Umpire to clarify what the count was, but not to argue the call since “arguing balls and strikes with the officials is how you get ejected”.
Karlie Charles pitched as well as anybody against that murderer’s row of a lineup in crimson and cream giving up 9 runs off 9 hits with two fielding errors and three punchouts. Charles was effective at getting a lot of spin on her off speed pitches particularly her curve and changeup and getting them off the plate, but those patient Oklahoma bats were just too much to beat. With a team like Oklahoma “you can’t make a mistake…you have to pitch to contact, but weak contact” Charles said.
Sami Williams had a nice day with a dinger and a pair of runs scored. When asked why she was placed second in the batting order instead of third or fourth as convention would dictate Coach Pinkerton said “the analytics say you should put your best RBIs in the two spot”. This writer can’t argue that based off of this Cyclone season start. Williams was battling all day like all the other Cyclones. Running out every flyball since the Cyclone way includes “not giving up on anything” according to williams.
Game two of the series had no errors in the stat column, but Oklahoma didn’t need errors to win. The Sooners mercied the Cyclones after 6 innings with a final score of 10-2. The game started poorly with freshman pitcher Saya Swain being pulled after five pitches due to “a soreness or a tightness” that she had been battling for some time according to head coach Jamie Pinkerton. Pitching to these Oklahoma bats was a tall task, but Hitting off that Oklahoma pitching seemed to be an even taller task with only two hits in total.
The had it’s highlights though with Sami Williams taking the Iowa State all time hits record off of a double in the bottom of the third. “It’s exciting; something you see once every now and then” was what she had to say about her record breaking double. The star had this to say of her aggressive nature in the batters box “I don’t like called strikes” and it showed with her swinging at the first pitches in her first two plate appearances and taking strikes on both swings.
The game also contained several standout plays from Carli Spelhaug who went yard on a pitch to lead off the fifth inning. Spelhaug’s offense started with a ten pitch at bat to start the bottom of the first. “I get pumped up being number one…the more pitches I’m seeing the more coach, and Sami are seeing,” said Spelhaug. Her team nature wouldn’t let her be content with her game “I shouldn’t be satisfied going one for three and losing”. On defense Spelhaug was as impressive; being part of a double play and making good fielder’s choice decisions that kept runners out of scoring positions.
Sunday was bloodbath with the Sooners breaking the Cyclones 22-2 as if to punish Iowa State for hanging seven runs on them on Friday. Nothing seemed to work for the Cyclones. Pitching couldn’t handle the Sooners and multiple pitching changes occurred to reflect that. Bats couldn’t handle the strong pitching of May who punched out six Cyclones compared to all three Cyclone pitchers combining for one strikeout. Oklahoma went for the jugular in the first inning and they kept the Cyclones out of the game and out of reach since the first inning. Coach Pinkerton said “I thought we were a good ball club when I woke up this morning and I’ll go to bed thinking the same thing”. Coach also brought up the fact that Oklahoma has mercied 22 of their opponents and they’ve played some good opponents.
As with anything there was a silver lining. Kali Gose had a sports center top ten worthy diving play at right center field. Gose said “I was playing deep right center field since she’d been hitting that way and I just made the play”. That sort of selfless diving play is what typifies the “battling” mindset of this Cyclone softball team. “Every pitch was a fight” according to Alesia Ranches whose battle at the plate caused a walk that forced in a run.
My final thoughts on the series can be summed up in three words, heartbreaking, hopeful, fun. It was genuinely heartbreaking to drop all three games in the series to the Oklahoma sooners. I was hoping for one win, but I got zero. The streak of losses to Oklahoma stretches back to 2006 which is further salting the wound. My hopefulness comes from the fact that Iowa State played the consensus number one team in the country close enough to win once. A few flukie plays and errors cost the Cyclones the first game. Finally we get to the fun portion. Very few things have felt as normal as spending a few afternoons in the bleachers since the Pandemic. Add to that the cost of admission being free and the Cyclone team is pretty good and you’ll be treating yourself to the most fun you’ve probably had in a while.