Kiley Naomi’s bat hasn’t been her best friend lately.
But in the Oklahoma State senior’s biggest at-bat of the season to this point, the best thing she did was not swing.
With two outs in the top of the eighth inning against rival Oklahoma, Naomi drew a bases-loaded walk on four pitches from Nicole May and the Cowgirl defense made the lead stand for a 4-3 win over the top-ranked Sooners for the Big 12 Tournament title on Saturday at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
It is the Cowgirls’ first Big 12 softball tournament title and first conference tournament crown of any kind since winning the Big 8 Tournament in 1995.
Naomi had just two hits in her previous 19 at-bats, and OSU coach Kenny Gajewski had pinch-hit for her earlier in the game. But the veteran who has been in countless tense situations over the last four years still generated confidence from her team.
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“I felt good,” Gajewski said. “The beautiful thing about these kids, even when I pinch-hit… it’s just cool that they don’t get pissed off. I know they’re pissed, but they don’t show it. Kiley didn’t show it.
“She’s been having some better at-bats. She’s been walking. She’s been going deeper in counts. So she’s getting there.”
Naomi’s bat never left her shoulder and she celebrated her walk as excitedly as she would have a home run, tossing the bat and hurrying to first base in front of her team’s dugout.
“I thought she was gonna get a hit,” senior center fielder Chyenne Factor said. “She gets a lot of walks, to me. I wasn’t worried at all. That was big.”
Naomi’s throwing error in the bottom of the eighth inning gave OU some hope, but on the next play — another grounder her way — the throw was on target, setting off a wild celebration on the very field where OSU hopes to be playing in the Women’s College World Series three weeks from now.
OSU pitchers Kelly Maxwell and Morgan Day combined to hold the Sooners to three runs on seven hits, with Day — the tournament’s most outstanding player — earning the win for her second straight game. She went the distance in Friday’s 6-1 win over Tex as, then allowed a run on three hits with no walks and three strikeouts over five innings against the Sooners’ potent lineup.
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Defensive miscues cost the Cowgirls in last weekend’s Bedlam series and they did again Saturday.
OU got on the board in the third with Tiare Jennings driving in a run with a single.
Two batters later, Grace Lyons skied a popup on the infield with two outs and OSU second baseman Brianna Evans battled the sun. Evans couldn’t corral the ball and Tiare Jennings came home to score to put the Sooners up 2-0.
The Cowgirls tied it in the fourth, though, as OU starter Nicole May struggled with control, walking two before Hayley Busby’s RBI single drove May from the game.
After Hope Trautwein came on, Taylor Tuck tied the game with a sacrifice fly to left.
The Cowgirls took the lead in the fifth as Chelsea Alexander came home to score after Chyenne Factor got caught in a rundown between first and second following Factor’s bunt single.
Factor was ultimately tagged out, but Alexander came home to score without a play.
In the bottom half of the inning, Jocelyn Alo crushed the first pitch she saw over the left-field wall for a solo home run to tie it.
Gajewski has preached to his team much of the season that they’re chasers, pursuing what Oklahoma has earned over the last several years. And Saturday’s win in front of more than 5,400 fans in the softball capital of the world was meaningful.
“We try to emulate them in a lot of things that we do,” Gajewksi said of the Sooners. “That’s the standard. I watch it. I see it. We show our team, like, this is what it looks like, so do it. You’re just as good.
“We’re just as good. We’re just as talented. We just gotta play like it, and we did that right here today.”
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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma State softball beats OU Sooners, wins Big 12 Tournament