How 'Bout Those Cowgirls!

STILLWATER - For the first time since 1998 and the seventh time in school history, the Oklahoma State Cowgirls are going to the Women's College World Series. Thanks to Friday night's win over Houston and a no guts, no glory day of softball Saturday in which OSU captured a 6-5 win in the Super Regional deciding game. There may not be any crying in baseball but there is in women's college softball.

The hard trying losers, Houston with their head coach Kyla Holas, pitcher Donna Bourgeois, and home-run hitting second baseman Jennifer Klinkert had already been to the media room, all with tears in their eyes and showing every bit the disappointment that comes from fighting so hard and coming up just a little short.

Then the full contingent of emotional, but smiling Cowgirls made the interview room with head coach Rich Wieligman, leftfield Tamara Brown, shortstop Chelsea Garcia, first baseman Julie Ward, overworked pitcher Kat Espinosa, and team leader and third baseban Mariah Gearhart.

Midway through the news conference Gearhart lowered her head and you could see her body shaking from the tears of joy.

Yes, there is crying and it is okay. The Cowgirls only needed the one win on the day and were hanging in the scoreless first game in the sixth when the vacuum gloved Gearhart dove for a line drive near the line at third. The ball seemed to be moving foul but Gearhart touched the ball hit by Houston's Katy Beth Sherman in fair territory and Sherman ended up on second base with a double. Gearhart admitted it is the one situation where her hustle and defensive abilities work against her.

"It was tough because I had been telling myself that I need to dive for fewer balls and there had been some in other games that I knew I needed to let go. I just tell myself I need to get those and that one I definitely should not have tried for. It's alright because I truly think everything happens for a reason and that one was so we could come back and get that second game," said Gearhart.

The next hitter Holly Anderson singled home Sherman with the only run and Houston held the Cowgirls off in the top of the seventh for a 1-0 victory to force the third and deciding game.

"I'm pretty hard on myself as it is," continued Gearhart, who will go to work for ESPN after the World Series. "I've made a lot of errors this season that I had to shake off and my teammates have done a great job of picking me up. That is their job to ignore my fault and do their job."

Gearhart never flinched on the field making six teriffic defensive plays in the second game, including a running over the shoulder catch for the second to last out that needs to make ESPN Sportscenter's Top 10 Plays of the Day.

Her teammates never flinched either as the workhorse in the circle Kat Espinosa, who got the win in game one and the loss in a complete game two, came back in the final 2 1/3 innings to get the win in the deciding game.

Espinosa is a woman of few words, but a lot of tough pitching.

"I just tried to be mentally prepared for anything basically," Espinosa said. "I guess I was just trying to play with everything that I had and I trusted my teammates behind me with the defense."

Head coach Rich Wieligman said he told the girls between games to go to the bathroom and flush the first game away. They did and the head coach was really happy when his team started out with a three-run first inning keyed by Julie Ward's double to the wall in left field.

"I love our kid's fight," said Wieligman. "I told them yesterday that it could be a long day, but let's finish it. They played hard and they didn't get down even when they were behind. I liked how we started the second game, three runs in the first was huge and Julie's double to the wall set the tone. I think that was something that said, okay, we're focused and ready."

"I'm just trying to get hits really," Ward said of her double in the second game. "If it's not me then it will be one of my teammates. I just try to stay relaxed the whole time and not get too hyped up. Take it pitch by pitch and keeping myself in the game."

The game see sawed and with Houston leading 4-3 in the fifth the Cowgirls strung together a walk, a single, and another walk to load the bases. A ground out by Garcia to score a run, a passed ball allowed another run to score, and then Tamara Brown doubled to the wall in left center to drive in Ward with the sixth and deciding run.

"They had been beating me inside, inside, inside all day," said Brown of the Houston pitcher Bourgeois. "I told myself and I'm going to be on time and put a good swing on it and fortunately it happened."

After a smart celebration in the pitching circle following the final out, a celebration where nobody was tackled, the team ran out to the outfield fence and touched the wall. They touched it where the next logo commemorating Oklahoma State's seventh Women's College World Series appearance will go, a trip to the mecca of NCAA softball and the highlight of their Oklahoma State careers.

"I just know that when you walk into our stadium you see all those World Series banners and the players that have played here and all the regionals and for these girls to make their mark and every time they come back to the stadium they will know that they put that on that wall there that is huge, I told them they needed to go touch that place because that is something the they will never, never forget," Wieligman explained of the Cowgirls trip to the outfield after the win.

"This feels great and we always want to represent our University and you can't ask for more," said Gearhart. "This is the best opportunity. This is what we feed off of, to do this for your teammates, for your coaches, for yourself, and for this University and now we have Oklahoma State up on the board for the World Series and everybody is going to see what we're about."

No guts, no glory, not a problem for these Cowgirls.


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