Cowgirls Fall In Elimination Game

OKLAHOMA CITY -- In a see-saw battle in the first elimination game of the 2011 Women's College World Series the Oklahoma State Cowgirls fell behind late and couldn't come back in losing to the California Lady Bears 6-2.

"That was a good team out there and Oklahoma State gave us all the game we wanted," said Cal head coach Diane Ninemire. "I was proud of our girls that when we were behind they battled back, but that was a good team we beat in Oklahoma State."

Nice of her to say, and she is right. The Cowgirls program is back and in a big way under the leadership of head coach Rich Wieligman, and in thanks to the players he has had pass through in his five seasons that had the program back in the Women's College World Series for a Big 12 record-tying 7th appearance.

After losing 1-0 to Baylor in Thursday's opener, the Cowgirls found themselves going against Cal in the first elimination game. After falling behind 1-0, the Cowgirls strung together five straight hits in the top of the fourth inning.

It started with a solid single to right by senior second baseman Alysia Hamilton out of Moore, Okla. Julie Ward came back and blooped the ball over the second baseman for Cal and then shortstop Chelsea Garcia did the same thing over the Lady Bears shortstop to load the bases.

The station-to-station offense continued and produced a run when Tamara Brown hit a solid shot into leftfield scoring Hamilton. Then the Cowgirls took the lead on senior catcher Ashley Boyd's single up the middle with Ward scoring from third.

"I love our fight," Wieligman said of his team. "We got down early and came back and put five, six hits together to get those runs. I can't say enough. The first of the game she (Henderson) was getting ahead and we were struggling but then we got the bats going."

"We were all going up there and swinging the bat hard trying to get that hit," said Hamilton.

The 2-1 lead looked good to Oklahoma State pitcher Kat Espinosa, who had pitched every inning on Thursday and the first three in this game either tied or behind on the scoreboard. After getting a key strike out in the bottom of the fourth inning to end a threat, Espinosa admitted she may have tired a little in the fifth.

Cal's Britt Vonk sliced a single to left-center with one out and then the Bears got after it. Jace Williams doubled to right field on a ball that went down the line and was questionable.

Then after a strikeout and a walk loaded the bases, Ashley Decker hitting .234 and without a triple all year, actually in her career at Cal, did just that as Sammy Jo Diffendaffer dove but could not come up with it and the ball went by her and to the wall. That cleared the bases and then Decker scored on a rare error by Garcia on Victorie Jones' ground ball. Cal led 5-2.

"I've said it all along that when you start playing teams of this caliber it comes down to one or two plays, maybe two or three hit balls or pitched balls and I think that is what it came down to," said Wieligman.

"I love Sammy Jo's effort on that (Decker) triple because if she plays it on the hop they still score because they are breaking on two outs and they are still going to score two runs. If she makes that catch then we are still in the driver's seat and up one."

The Lady Bears added a home run in the bottom of the sixth that chased Espinosa out of the game, and the Cowgirls never threatened in their last two at bats.

"It's hard to put it in words, it just means everything, it is great for our program and great for Oklahoma State," said Wieligman of making it to the WCWS. "To see our seniors and what they have gone through and how they have brought us along."

Oklahoma State finishes 42-20 on the season and says goodbye to some huge building blocks in the program in third baseman Mariah Gearhart, second baseman Alysia Hamilton, catcher Ashley Boyd and pitcher Sarah Odom.

Gearhart, who was sitting at the podium in postgame and fighting back the tears, is a special player, a great leader, and a broadcast graduate that is going to work now for ESPN. She is like a walking, talking NCAA promotional ad for student athletes going pro in something other than sports.

"Knowing that I get to come back here again and working with ESPN and knowing that I get to share the stories of girls that will be doing the exact same thing that I was doing, sharing their stories, is something I'm excited about," Gearhart explained with tears rolling down her cheeks. "Softball is growing and only getting better and better."

Just like the Cowgirls program.

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