Mike White told his Texas softball team the past not a predictor of future results, and he was correct Saturday at Cowgirl Stadium.
Oklahoma State had beaten Texas all five times they’d squared off this season including the opening game of the NCAA Super Regional on Friday. The Cowgirls were one win shy of earning a berth into the Women’s College World Series, and they’re still one win away after Texas event the best-of-three weekend series Saturday.
White’s squad got the proverbial monkey off its back at the most important time. The Longhorns needed a win or their season was over, and they had to rally to beat OSU and force the if-necessary contest at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Texas won, 4-2, after scoring three runs in the XXth inning. OSU attempted to rally in the top of the seventh, with a solo home run, but it as short lived. Now, the two Big 12 Conference squads who have played six times this season will play once more – the winner advances to the WCWS and the loser goes home.
“I had a good feeling in my gut Texas would come out and play their best,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “When your season is on the line, you play with a sense of urgency that they did here today. Credit them. … Really good softball game and really proud to be a part of it. Can’t wait to be a part of what tomorrow is going to bring here in Stillwater. I think it’s going to be epic. I think our crowd will be out of control. I think our players will play with that same sense of urgency.”
Trailing 4-1 and down to its last three outs, the Cowgirls needed a rally. Sydney Pennington led off by blasting a solo home run just inside the left field foul pole. It was her 13th on the season, and increased her program career HR lead.
Unfortunately, the rally didn’t last long. The Cowgirls grounded out twice and struck out during the next three at-bats.
The only other OSU run came in the third inning. Kiley Naomi hit a one-out solo home run that just cleared the outfield wall with the wind blowing in Saturday. It was her 14th home run this season.
OSU had only one other hit in the outing. It was a single by Karli Petty in the second inning.
“First pitch, I saw fastball and I didn’t really want to wait for the changeup to come, so I put a good swing on that outside pitch,” Naomi said. “I was able to get enough power with the wind coming in and just getting it over the fence to get that first run and try and get something going.”
Cowgirl starting pitcher Kelly Maxwell held Texas to one hit through four innings, but the Longhorns rally begins in the fifth inning. It started with back-to-back one-out singles before a Maxwell strikeout.
Texas’ Janae Jefferson followed with a game-tying RBI single. The third out was a pop up to shortstop.
The next inning Texas blew open the game with a pair of home runs. Jordyn Whitaker led off with a solo home run – her fourth of the season.
“I don’t think Kelly (Maxwell) executed the pitch in the exact location,” Gajewski said. “Credit Whitaker for doing that. I think Kelly was starting to wear down. We were kind of in between. It’s hard to take a kid out when you’re cruising along.”
After a double and sacrifice bunt, Mary Iakopo fell behind 1-2 in the count before smacking a two-run home run over the right field wall. It was her 16th of the season, and gave the Longhorns enough cushion for pitcher Shea O’Leary to record three more outs.
O’Leary pitched a complete game, improving to 16-5 on the season. She allowed three hits and two runs, while striking out five batters.
“The difference in this game was our offense,” Gajewski said. “We were a little bit selfish here today, swinging at a lot of first pitches and not being the type of offense we’ve been. I don’t mind kids going at the first pitch, but first pitch lazy outs are not what we’ve built the last half of the season on. We’ll go back and look at that.”