By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
A lot has changed for the Oklahoma State softball since a seven-game losing streak in late February.
Since a 5-1 loss at Tulsa on March 6, the Cowgirls have found a groove and head into their Big 12 Conference opening series against Texas Tech having won 15 of their last 16 games.
“The kids feel really good about themselves right now,” OSU coach Rich Wieligman said. “Winning cures all, a lot of times. They have done a great job getting on a little bit of a roll.”
The recent success of the Cowgirls (22-13) can be narrowed down to OSU’s production at the plate. During the 16-game stretch, the Cowgirls have outscored their opponents 106-15 with 11 games of four or more runs.
Leading the charge for Oklahoma State is Tamara Brown, who has made the transition from the cleanup spot to the leadoff hitter. Since making the move up the lineup 21 games ago, Brown is batting .362 with 23 runs, 10 doubles and nine RBIs.
“We started getting hits when we needed to and that builds,” Wieligman said. “Hitting is contagious — both ways. If a player is struggling and maybe doesn’t come through it puts more pressure on somebody — it can build that way.
“But it also builds the other way, when a player gets a big hit then everybody starts getting big hits. I think that’s one thing we’ve done a lot better with. We’ve started getting hits with runners in scoring position, driving in runs and everybody feels good about themselves now.”
The bats have complemented the pitching nicely, which had kept the Cowgirls in many games early in the season.
Oklahoma State pitchers Kat Espinosa and Simone Freeman have given up more than three runs in just one game over the last 16 contests — coming in a 4-3 loss against North Texas. As a result, Espinosa (12-6) has seen her ERA drop to 1.51, while Freeman (10-7) comes in with a 2.05 ERA.
But now things get testy for the Cowgirls with more familiar foes in conference play. The Lady Raiders head into Stillwater with a 26-12 record and are near the top of the conference in most offensive statistical categories — including second in batting average at .333, first in runs scored with 261 and their 39 home runs are second to Oklahoma.
“What we have to do is pitch the ball well,” Wieligman said. “I think that’s the most important thing when it comes to conference time, is that our pitchers do well where we can hold them down to where our team can score runs.”
The first two contests on Thursday and Friday have been moved up to 5:30 p.m. starts with Saturday’s finale scheduled for noon.
Jason Elmquist is the sports editor for the Stillwater NewsPress.