Three Big Takeaways: Cyclone softball regains a winning record


Iowa State plays Northern Iowa at the Cyclone Sports Complex on April 6.

Anthony Hanson

Iowa State softball moved one step closer to wrapping the 2022 season Friday afternoon after a thrilling walk-off victory against the Kansas Jayhawks.

Only one weekend of Big 12 play remains for the Cyclones this season. And with the seven-team single-elimination conference tournament less than one week way, each game carries a little extra significance. 

Iowa State rallied to defeat the seventh place Jayhawks Friday afternoon. An RBI sacrifice fly from Kasey Simpson completed a comeback and the Cyclones overcame a six-run deficit to return to an above .500 record. 

A tight conference race

Iowa State’s final three games will decide the team’s standing in the crowded Big 12 conference landscape. With Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas squarely positioned in first, second and third, the Cyclones can finish anywhere from seventh to fourth. 

Iowa State held the sixth spot in the conference standings entering Friday’s slate of Big 12 games but just one game back of Texas Tech and Baylor.

Iowa State needs two wins to pass Texas Tech and two more wins than Baylor on the final weekend to move into fourth place. 

But, staring an early six run deficit in the face on Friday, Iowa State needed a comeback. 

Kansas used a three run home run off Iowa State starter Saya Swain to take a three-run lead with one swing of the bat in the second inning. The Jayhawks added to their lead and entering the bottom of the third, Iowa State trailed 7-1. 

Iowa State tied the game with a six run third inning, but the comeback was not complete. 

In the defining seventh inning, Milaysia Ochoa jumped at the first pitch to drive a double in the right field gap. Alesia Ranches moved the runner over and Kasey Simpson earned the walk-off RBI with a fly out to center field. 

By completing the comeback, Iowa State’s highest possible Big 12 seed remains in play. Iowa State softball has never been the four seed or higher at the Big 12 tournament. 

A winning record

Iowa State moved its overall record to 26-25 with the win. Iowa State Head Coach Jamie Pinkerton has previously stated a winning record is a goal for him and his team. 

After the win against Kansas Friday afternoon, Pinkerton rehashed what it means to stay above this threshold.

“It means you’re still alive,” Pinkerton said. “If you’re not above .500, you don’t have a chance for postseason.”

In the latest NCAA softball RPI standings, Iowa State ranks 58. The NCAA tournament is made up of 32 automatic qualifying teams and the next 32 strongest RPI ratings. 

Iowa State will need every opportunity for RPI boosting wins with only two games remaining in the regular season. 

“Kansas is not going to lay down,” Pinkerton said. 

The status of Carli Spelhaug

The status of Iowa State’s Carli Spelhaug is “day-to-day,” according to the team’s head coach. 

The leadoff hitter and left fielder has been absent from the Cyclone lineup for two consecutive games. 

Spelhaug started all 49 games prior to Iowa State’s Wednesday matchup with Drake in which Kali Gose started in left field and Ochoa led off the order. 

On Friday, Pinkerton again started Gose in place of Spelhaug in left, but sophomore third baseman Kaylee Pond batted first for Iowa State. 

Spelhaug sustained an ankle injury in a recent three-game series with Baylor. Spelhaug’s perfect stolen base record was snapped as well. She grabbed 42 stolen bases in her career before being caught stealing second base against the Bears. 

Her stolen base percentage of .977 still ranks second among NCAA players. 

Spelhaug leads Iowa State in several other key offensive categories. In her junior season in Ames, Spelhaug leads the club in batting average, OPS and runs scored. 

Pinkerton considered, he said, withholding Spelhaug from Iowa State’s final three games indefinitely as a precaution. But considering the increased stakes of the final stretch, the junior’s status remains day-to-day.