Cowgirls can't keep up in Bedlam WCWS loss

Photos by Adam Luther/Stillwater News Press Oklahoma State’s Kiley Naomi throws the ball to first base for an out Friday against Oklahoma in the Women’s College World Series. RIGHT: Oklahoma State’s Samantha Show pitches Friday against Oklahoma in the Women’s College World Series.

OKLAHOMA CITY – It wasn’t as dramatic as the Reba McEntire song, but it represented a pivotal moment in Friday’s historic Bedlam game.

In the top of the fifth, in a game that was already going late, the lights in right field went out. In most instances, it would be a big deal but the field at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium looked the same without the lights.

Regardless, the Women’s College World Series contest between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 13 Oklahoma State was stopped until stadium crews fired back up a generator which had been run over, causing the whole ordeal.

In the 17 minutes of waiting, the Cowgirls said they just tried to stay loose.

“We were just trying to be ourselves, like our swag-tastic selves, get our fans to get rowdy,” redshirt senior right fielder Rylee Bayless said. “They were getting their place rowdy over there. We were just trying to keep the momentum high, our energy high in that moment. I don't know. Just trying to get our fans into the game.”

Sophomore first baseman Michaela Richbourg said the team was trying to interact with its record crowd – there were 9,820 fans in attendance for the two winner’s bracket games. It was the first time OSU and OU met at the WCWS and the sixth time overall in NCAA Tournament play.

“We were just staying together, as you can see,” Richbourg said. “We stayed as a team right there, did some cheers with the crowd. Got them involved. Just stayed together throughout the time.”

Senior pitcher Samantha Show said she had hoped the delay would help out the Cowgirls. Down 3-1 at the time, Show thought perhaps the break would be long enough to cool the Sooners and OSU could make a rally like the Baltimore Ravens did against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47.

“I was really thinking that break was going to be kind of like a flipping moment for us, that that would kind of knock the wind out of OU, stop their momentum,” Show said. “I was having a good time over there dancing, having a good time with us and the fans trying to get them as involved as possible.

“It kind of sucked seeing people leave at that point. We had fun trying to get the momentum back on our side.”

Bayless is back

Following a brief hiatus from the basepaths, Bayless earned a walk, a double and scored OSU's lone run off of Giselle Juarez on Friday night to get some of her mojo back.

The Kansas City, Missouri, native didn’t make it on base at all throughout the Florida State Super Regional series or in the first WCWS contest against Florida.

The walk broke that streak and her double in the sixth, which looked to possibly be a rally-starter, was her first base knock since Big 12 Tournament play against Iowa State on May 10.

"I told everybody – I want to obviously come through for my team, but I was like, I don't care what happens because one through nine has my back no matter what,” Bayless said. “They're going to step up and, like, they're going to pick me up. That's what we do. It's for the girls. We're here for each other, playing for each other.

“… It was really awesome getting on base finally, to get on base for the girls, hit the ball for the girls. I'm willing to do anything on base for the girls. That's all I want to do.”

OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said despite the ultimate 6-1 loss, he was happy to see Bayless get back in the saddle. As a leadoff, her energy is infectious and sets the tone, so Gajewski is hoping this is a good sign for the rest of the double-elimination tournament as the Cowgirls’ backs are against the wall 

“We need her. We tend to put up crooked numbers when she's on base,” Gajewski said.

Walks an issue

One of the more deflating moments of the contest came in the sixth when the Cowgirls walked in three runs to double the Sooners’ stranglehold.

After Show allowed three runs in the top of the first, the OSU defense had held OU down to keep the Cowgirls’ hopes alive. Show’s night was done after the fourth with junior Logan Simunek coming into the circle. Simunek started well, but the OU onslaught was too much as she eventually walked in two runs – with some help from a controversial play at third when OU’s Nicole Mendes ran over OSU sophomore third baseman Sydney Pennington to negate a potential frame-ending tagout.

Simunek was then replaced by Samantha Clakley, in her first action in two weeks, with Clakley walking in OU’s final run before finishing out the game.

Gajewski said the walks were the most glaring sat of the night.

“As I look at the box score, I mean, what did us in is seven free passes, eight hits I think. They struck us out 13 times, walked us once. We threw 143 pitches, which is a ton for us,” Gajewski said. “We usually live in the 90 to 100 range. They threw 92 and struck out 13. They were pounding the zone. We weren't.”

The fourth-year OSU coach said he and Jeff Cottrill will make a decision on who will start Saturday night’s game between either Minnesota or Washington, but there is a likely chance Simunek will be out there at some point."

The Piedmont native has had some of the more lockdown innings this postseason and Gajewski hopes she can get back to that with Friday night just being an anomaly.

“Logan wasn't very sharp, obviously. I didn't like the look in her eye, but I need her to be good. I got to stay with her,” Gajewski said. “I'm here to be here for a long time. I need these kids to perform, get out in this moment in front of this crowd in this atmosphere here. I needed her to work through that. Didn't turn out for us.

“I'll be running her right back out there tomorrow. I know what she's capable of. Really happy for Clakley and the way she came in. I thought she was really sharp.”