Cyclones open Big 12 play against Cowgirls

Darrin Cline

If mother nature permits, the ISU softball team will finally have an opportunity to return to the diamond this weekend. For the past two weeks, each attempt by the Cyclones to take the field has been thwarted by weather.

The women’s last nine games have been lost due to rain delays, but the team can hardly wait to make their home outdoor debut.

“It kind of feels like the beginning of the season again,” said the lone ISU senior Rachel Zabriskie. “It’s been such a long pause that feels good to actually be able to play a game.”

Iowa State (14-8 overall, 0-0 Big 12) will welcome in one of eight of the Big 12’s ranked squads: No. 17-ranked Oklahoma State (27-6, 0-1), which has been on a tear in March, winning 15 of 18 contests.

The Cowgirls are guided offensively by the big bats of Julie Ward and Alysia Hamilton. Ward leads the team with nine home runs and 33 RBIs.

Hamilton has connected on her share of long balls with four of her own, as well as scoring 29 runs. Hamilton has done all this while maintaining a .422 batting average in a team-leading 102 at bats.

“I like playing the really good teams and in the Big 12 there are a lot of them,” Zabriskie said. “You know you’re going to get a lot of good competition and you have to play up to their standards.”

Iowa State will also be up against an almost-unblemished rotation. Oklahoma State’s four pitchers carry a combined 1.69 ERA, with three of them combining for a 20-2 record.

While the opponents are not to be taken lightly, the Cyclones are relieved to be home and playing competitively. With this week’s doubleheader against Creighton postponed, the weekend’s games will be the first home games since the Cyclone Indoor Invitational on Feb. 13.

During this span, the team has faced a slew of ups and downs. The dismissal of two key contributors has caused the team to go deeper into the roster. Beyond that, the Cyclones went 4-7 during the remainder of February and early March.

Before the streak of canceled games, the squad had reeled off five straight wins and seemed to be hitting its stride. Zabriskie is optimistic that the Cyclone women will rediscover their spark and battle with the nationally ranked Cowgirls.

“This is the first time a lot of girls are going to play in a Big 12 game,” Zabriskie said. “We want them to get some confidence and play to the best of their abilities. We want them to figure out what the Big 12 is all about.”