For two and two thirds innings, the Cowgirl bats were unnervingly quiet. Oklahoma State softball team’s third base Sydney Pennington stepped up to the plate, cocked back her bat and lined the ball over the left field wall.
The third inning home run woke up the offense and propelled No. 11 OSU (19-5) to a 5-0 win against Wichita State (11-16). The Cowgirls scored three runs in the inning following Pennington’s homer, but pitcher Carrie Eberle and the defense only needed one to secure the shutout and OSU’s 12th victory in a row.
Coach Kenny Gajewski said the solo shot from Pennington gave OSU the confidence it needed to jump start the offense.
“We’re kind of a streaky type group, you know, and when we score, we start scoring in bunches,” Gajewski said. “I thought that that was actually a crucial run, it just got us ahead and we’re a team that feasts on that kind of stuff.”
Freshman catcher Madison Neighbors kept the momentum going in the fourth inning. Neighbors’ single with two outs drove home two runs and was followed by a hit and error by designated player Chelsea Alexander, which brought Neighbors home for another run. The two plays were just a few moments out of several during the game where the back half of the lineup excelled for the Cowgirls.
Neighbors said the bottom of the lineup has worked tirelessly to be just as dangerous as the top of the OSU batting order.
“I would say the bottom of the lineup, with me being in it I can speak for myself, I think we’ve really been grinding with coach Jeff (Cottrill),” Neighbors said. “Just [trying to] help the team get more runs and win games.”
Eberle, a senior, shone yet again for OSU, producing five strikeouts and allowing just two hits and two walks in her 10th win of the season. Eberle said that the game plan and defense was key to producing another good outing.
“The motto (tonight) was ‘go right at them,’ and obviously our defense is good behind me,” Eberle said. “I’ve kind of only gotten in trouble when I gave them free bases. Sometimes I just (have to) recenter myself and keep throwing strikes.”
With news swirling about the coronavirus outbreak, Gajewski addressed his team before the game and said the Cowgirls are savoring the moment and trying to stay even keel, despite the tear OSU has been on.
“I had a pretty good talk with the girls before our game about this coronavirus that’s going around and I just wanted them to put into perspective what just happened to the Ivy League kids, losing their season,” Gajewski said. “My message was perspective (and) stay in the moment, because you never know what could happen and when this thing could fall apart for all of us…I didn’t really have to talk about, ‘Hey you’ve won 11 in a row, don’t fall down here.’ It’s more of an enjoy the moment (thing). You came here to play, it’s what you came here to do and go to school. Just enjoy every single moment this team has.”