Stillwater News Press

April 1, 2013

Oklahoma State softball refocused as it hits the road

By Nick Snow
nicksnow@stwnewspress.com

STILLWATER, Okla. — Few player’s took Thursday’s 10-0 loss to Texas Tech harder than Oklahoma State pitcher Kat Espinosa.

While nobody likes to be run ruled — especially in conference —  that loss may have actually turned into a blessing for the Cowgirls.

“I feel like we’re getting back on track,” Oklahoma State coach Rich Wieligman said. “The 10-0 game wasn’t anywhere close to what we’ve been doing all year pitching-wise. We got back to the games that we won 2-1, where our pitcher held them to where we could score. That’s the way we’re going to win games and that’s the way a lot of games in softball are won — the circle dominates and holds the other team down until you can figure out a way to score.”

Holding other teams down hasn’t been a problem for Espinosa or fellow pitcher Simone Freeman. Sometimes it almost comes too easily for the duo, which has been a bright spot throughout Oklahoma State’s season so far.

The end result? A shocking and uncharacteristic performance.

But a loss like the one Thursday has its benefits. Espinosa (13-7) looked as sharp as she had all season when the Cowgirls took a doubleheader against Tech, and a big part of that success was more focus.

“Your first series of conference, you want to get off to a good start and we really didn’t when we got beat 10-0 in the first game,” Wieligman said. “Our girls rebounded well and we won the next two. It’s important that we win the series, and that’s what we did. You hate to get off to that start. Everybody always asked me, ‘What happened in that game?’ I just said, ‘Nothing.’ Whatever could go wrong did go wrong.

“Kat has had a great career here and done a great job. It’s unfortunate when you have a bad game, but as a pitcher it really shows because they touch the ball every pitch. ... I was proud of her rebounding the way she did and then finishing the third game.”

Espinosa may have gotten her focus back against the Lady Raiders, but now she and the Cowgirls (24-14, 2-1 in Big 12) have a new focus. In what could be one of the most challenging weeks of the season the Cowgirls will travel to Wichita State for a mid-week nonconference game Wednesday before facing Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, in a three-game series starting Friday.

“It’s always tough playing (at Wichita State),” Wieligman said. “Whenever you’re on the road at some of these schools, it’s always tougher to play there but it’s good. It’s good experience for our kids and they need to be ready to play. So we’re going to take care of business up there and then we’re going to go from there to Iowa State. These next four games on the road, we need to be playing well.”

With a big series coming up against the Cyclones, it’d be easy to overlook the Shockers. But after what happened in the first game against Texas Tech, Wieligman says he doesn’t expect the Cowgirls’ pitching staff to overlook anybody from here on out.

“This game should help them prepare (for Iowa State) a little bit,” Wieligman said. “It gets them back on the road to where they get into their routine on the road.”

From here, Wieligman knows the road through the rest of the season is only going to get more difficult. But with Espinosa and Freeman finding their focus in the circle, Wieligman is hoping things have turned around for the better as Oklahoma State enters the meat of its schedule.

“Going up (to Iowa State) is always tough to play,” Wieligman said. “All the road trips in the Big 12 are tough. You have to prepare for a lot of things. It’s always a little colder than what you come from. We have to be mentally tough. They just always seem to play well at home. We just have to be able to handle what they do and keep doing what we’re doing.”