By JASON ELMQUIST
STILLWATER — Heading into the fall season, Oklahoma State softball coach Rich Wieligman said the three weeks of games would be more for getting freshmen acclimated to the college game.
After one game, they already appear to be pretty comfortable in the Cowgirl program.
Going up against Rogers State, the OSU freshman class brushed off the early butterflies and were key contributors in a 9-0 victory in the 10-inning contest.
“It’s been a long time since I was a freshman, but that first game out there on the field you dreamed of playing — being a Cowgirl. They came out and played well,” Wieligman said.
Make no doubt about it, though, the freshmen were definitely nervous about their first college game — even if it is one that doesn’t count in the record books.
“I was really nervous. I was just hoping to play well,” said freshman Tiffany Mikkelson, who started at third base for the Cowgirls.
Though there were some nerves in the early going, all of the freshmen seemed to overcome them — whether it be a starter like Mikkelson, or a reserve player like Dre McKee or Chelsea Ross.
“All the freshmen that got out there got a hit tonight. That’s good that they go out there and swing the bat,” Wieligman said. “They were aggressive, they weren’t timid. And as a whole, the whole team was that way swinging the bat. They were getting after it pretty good.”
Ross, a pitcher from Kansas City, Mo., found herself in some tight jams in her two innings of work. But in both cases she came away unscathed — including a one-out, bases loaded jam in the sixth.
“That is a good sign. You know she’s got some butterflies out there and was struggling a little bit throwing strikes,” Wieligman said. “But she settled in and she got out of the innings. And that’s the key, she didn’t quit, she kept battling and she found it — she found how to get people out.”
Ross would later come away with a double in the ninth to spark a two-run rally, which included an RBI single with the bases loaded by McKee, a freshman outfielder from Jenks.
But the biggest offensive explosion from the OSU freshmen came from Mikkelson. The 5-foot-7 third baseman from Aliso Viego, Calif., hit a two-out, two-run home run in the eighth inning.
“I was like, ‘Oh gosh, that’s really high, I hope she doesn’t catch it.’ Then when I saw it go over the wall, I was just like, ‘I just hit a home run! A freshman hitting a home run? Dang,’” said Mikkelson, who was hitting cleanup in the batting order.
While it was a special moment for the freshman, Mikkelson also understands the added pressure that comes with hitting your first collegiate home run in her first collegiate game.
“It definitely adds some pressure,” Mikkelson said. “Hitting a home run in your first game, now it’s like you have to do well.”
“I hope she’s got a lot more in her. We’re going to need them,” Wieligman said. “She’s going to special to watch.”
Oklahoma State also got plenty of production from its returning members. Sophomore leadoff hitter Shelby Davis went 3 for 4 with a run and an RBI before going down with an apparent ankle injury when beating out an infield single. Junior second baseman Ari Morrison went 4 for 5 with a double and two RBIs.
In the circle, senior Kat Espinosa went four innings, giving up three hits and one walk while striking out four. Junior Simone Freeman also pitched four innings, giving up one hit and two walks while striking out five.
The Cowgirls will continue their fall slate at 6 p.m. Thursday with a home game against Western Oklahoma State at the Cowgirl Softball Stadium.
Jason Elmquist is sports editor for Stillwater NewsPress.