By ANDREW GLOVER
STILLWATER — Two years ago, the Oklahoma State University softball team was in the College World Series. Last year, its season ended in the Big 12 Tournament. With a younger team, the Cowgirls hope to make a deeper run in the postseason.
The Cowgirls are fielding four freshmen and three sophomores. Several received playing time during Oklahoma State’s exhibition games last fall. Coach Rich Wieligman said those fall games were huge and hopes it pays off in the spring.
“We get a whole fall to practice and get some games and get accustomed to the college life,” Wieligman said. “It’s nice that we have freshmen that have played eight games. They have gone through a semester of school. So they know what is expected of them on the academic side and the weight and training side.”
Wieligman added that several of those younger players will see significant action.
“We got Tiffany Mikkelson at third base, she is going to probably hit in the four- or five-hole for us. She’s got good power and will probably do some pretty good things. We got Erika Campbell and Dre McKee in right field — they will probably platoon off and on. One’s a right-handed hitter and one is a left-handed hitter.”
Oklahoma State also has some transfers. Junior Shannon Kaufman joins the team from Sacramento State and will play in the outfield. Senior Stephanie Brewer is a transfer from Arkansas and will spend time at first. Senior Samantha Chrisman played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
“(Brewer) is going to be at first base with Amy Graham,” Wieligman said. “We’ve got kids competing for spots. Who is going to hit and play well is probably going to get to play.”
The Cowgirls’ experience is at the pitcher position with senior Kat Espinosa and junior Simone Freeman returning. Espinosa went 15-13 with a 2.38 ERA and five shutouts. Freeman started in 24 games and posted a 7-11 record with a 2.74 ERA. Wieligman said his team’s success will in part ride on their performance.
“That will definitely be a strong point,” Wieligman said. “That will definitely help us out. We have some young kids that have come up and are playing well.”
Oklahoma State is coming off a 25-26 season and 8-16 finish in the Big 12. Some of the Cowgirls struggles had to do with their lack of hitting, as they batted .225 and only had two players hit more than .300.
“I think that it’s important that our offense gets off to a good start this year,” Wieligman said. “Our pitching did great last year and if they do what they did last we should be fine. We got some kids at the front of the lineup that will get on and move the ball around. It’s important that the middle our lineup drives them in.”
This season the Cowgirls aren’t taken it easy as 24 of their games are against teams that made last season’s NCAA Tournament starting with the University of Tennessee on Sunday in the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah. OSU will also face Florida on Feb. 21 and Stanford on Feb. 22 in the Cathedral City Classic. Wieligman said those games will
help them prepare for tough games in the Big 12 and postseason.
“We want to win all our games and we want to play well,” Wieligman said. “The big thing is to see where we are at. We are playing five games, the big game against Tennessee. That will show us how far we need to go on the season.”
Andrew Glover is a sports reporter for The Stillwater NewsPress.