#31 Oklahoma State Softball Preview

Oklahoma State Cowgirls

Overall Rank: #31
Conference Rank: #6 Big 12
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Coach Rich Wieligman (173-116) begins his sixth year in Stillwater after his Cowgirls compiled a 42-20 record in 2011 and advanced to the NCAA Women’s College World Series. Wieligman will find out quick how good his team will be, especially on the road, with the team’s first 14 games away from Stillwater in three tourneys, starting with the Hilton Houston Plaza Classic in Houston, February 10-12.  The Cowgirls were 7-1 in the fall and play 18 games at home in 2012.

2011:  43-20, 8-10
2011 Postseason: CWS
Coach: Rich Wieligman

Field Players:
Oklahoma State returns six position starters, including three pitchers. Lost through graduation were their top two hitters, Alysia Hamilton (.403) and Mariah Gearhart (.344, 36 of 38 stolen bases). Leading the returnees are Julie Ward (1B) and Chelsea Garcia (SS). Ward already is the career home run leader for OSU and has another season after hitting 11 last year with 46 RBIs. Garcia batted .333 in 2011 and is the top returning power hitter with 12 homers and 55 RBIs.  Former Northern Oklahoma College catcher Kelsea Schultz will be behind the plate and replace catcher Ashley Boyd, who graduated and had a fielding percentage of .988, making only four errors with 296 putouts and 24 assists. Schultz is one of four seniors on the team. Ari Morrison (2B) led team in hitting in the fall and has excellent speed, stealing 15 of 17 bases last year and batting .310.

Three pitchers return including Kat Espinoza, Morgan Hawkins and Simone Freeman. Espinoza led the staff with a 23-10 record including 17 complete games and a 2.28 ERA. She struck out 159 batters in 219.1 innings. Hawkins was 6-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 40.1 innings while Simone was 9-8 with a 2.53 ERA in 108 innings. Sarah Odom, who compiled a 4-2 mound record, graduated. The Cowgirls’ team ERA of 2.23 ranked 47th in the NCAA.

Who to watch:
Former Northern Oklahoma College receiver Kelsea Schultz is one of the keys to what kind of year the Cowgirls will have. She batted .300 in the fall as the Cowgirls went 7-1. In two years at NOC, Schultz batted .394 and .388, stealing 55 bases, scoring 101 runs and driving in 79 runs.

Final Projection:
The Cowgirls are picked to finish sixth in the Big 12, but could surprise considering a solid pitching staff is returning and the top two power hitters from a year ago are back. The Cowgirls play solid defense, ranking sixth in the NCAA Division I a year ago (.977) and 83rd in batting (.284).

Projected Postseason: NCAA

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Julie Ward, 1B, 183
Hits: Julie Ward, 1B, 59
Home Runs: Chelsea Garcia, SS, 12
RBIs: Chelsea Garcia, SS, 55
Runs: Julie Ward, 1B, 42
Stolen Bases: Ari Morrison, 2B, 15

Wins: Kat Espinosa, P, 23
Innings Pitched: Kat Espinosa, P, 219.1
Strikeouts: Kat Espinosa, P, 159
Saves: Kat Espinosa, P, 3

Madness 2012 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#29 Shelby Davis