By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There is no rest for the weary, or in this case for the Oklahoma State softball squad.
The Cowgirls — coming off a 2-3 trip to Palm Springs, Calif., in which two losses were close ones to No. 4 Florida, 3-0, and 12th-ranked UCLA, 5-1 — have a pair of home doubleheaders with an 8-7 Houston squad on Saturday and 25th-ranked Nebraska on Sunday, both at the Cowgirl Softball Complex.
“Going from last weekend to this weekend, I think we’re getting a really good measuring stick,” OSU coach Rich Wieligman said. “I know Houston started out the year in the top 25, I believe and are a very strong team. Then Nebraska just cracked the top 25. So it continues to show us where we’re at and that’s a big thing because they are NCAA appearance teams.”
In that trip to California the Cowgirls got some solid pitching, as they have all year. That was no more apparent than in OSU’s 4-1 upset of 17th-ranked Stanford, in which senior Kat Espinosa pitched a complete game with the one run given up on four hits while allowing no walks and striking out six.
“Our pitching is definitely the best part of our game and I hope they continue that and we can get some runs early in the game for them and get them ahead so they can pitch with the lead for a change,” Wieligman said.
It’s the offense the OSU coach is worried about — something that plagued the Cowgirls all of last season. While OSU is averaging 2.5 runs per game through its first 14 games, the Cowgirls have been on the wrong end of six games decided by two runs or less — while winning four games decided by the same.
“We continue to work on situational hitting,” Wieligman said. “I think that’s our biggest hurdle right now. Our pitching’s been good, our defense hasn’t been that bad. I think our biggest issue right now is we’ve got to do a better job in situations on offense. When we get runners on we’ve got to drive them around, and move them and plate them. We’ve played a lot of 1-run games already, and we’ve got to figure out a way scratch across a couple runs for the pitchers.”
That may play a factor in the two weekend series. Houston’s offense is pounding out nearly 5 runs a contest, while the Cornhuskers are producing 5.4 runs per game — which will prove to a be an excellent test also for the OSU pitching staff.
“I’d like to see our pitchers throw a lot fewer pitches per inning, but the job they’ve been doing it’s hard for me to ask any more,” Wieligman said. “The fewer pitches they can throw, the better it will be. They continue to compete hard and they’re doing a great job in the circle. We’ll just see if we can get some runs for them.”
While the Cowgirls are looking to improve on the field, Wieligman said finally getting to play at home after spending the first month of the season on the road will help his squad mentally.
“They are getting to stay home in their own beds for once and getting to play on the home field, and I know that’s got to be exciting for them,” the OSU coach said. “It’s tough on them a little bit. It challenges them.
“But the big thing is we are getting experience on the road and getting to used to distractions and the travel part of it — stuff they aren’t accustomed to. And that’s something they need to get used to anyway, so it gets easier when we get on the road for conference play.”