Softball sweeps Missouri, off to best Big 12 start

Mark Pawlak

Big 12 take notice – things are coming together for the ISU softball team.

The Cyclones sit in first place and have raced out to a 4-0 start in conference play after sweeping a doubleheader from the Missouri Tigers, 10-2, in six innings, and 4-1 to open its home conference schedule Wednesday at the Southwest Athletic Complex.

Iowa State is off to its best start ever in Big 12 play and has already eclipsed last year’s win total in the conference (2-12).

“It feels great. It’s the first time ever we’ve went 4-0,” Erica Martinez said. “I hope that we keep doing this the whole year.”

ISU head coach Ruth Crowe believed her team had the ability to compete in the Big 12 Conference this year.

“We started feeling that we had the potential to do something in the Big 12, when we started the season,” Crowe said. “We had a great tournament out in California. We’ve been able to put some things together.”

The Cyclones got great pitching performances from Jen Bice and Martinez.

Behind a eight-strikeout outing by Martinez, Iowa State claimed the opener in a contest stopped by the 8-run rule.

“I felt I was doing a good job getting ahead, working the batters, mixing up a lot of pitches and keeping them off-balance with the changeup,” Martinez said.

A huge second inning by the Cyclones was all the run support Martinez would need as she improved her win total to six on the year. She has lost four games.

The inning saw Iowa State bring 11 batters to plate and score six runs.

Freshman Lindsey Herrin had a big bat in the inning, leading off with a solo home run to left field and later singling in two more runs.

Katie Ruby and Kristin Shipley each added a home run in the fifth inning.

The Cyclones’ three home runs in the opener nearly matches its total round-trippers for Big 12 play last year (4).

Jen Bice gave up one run on four hits as Iowa State claimed game two, 4-1.

Bice shut down the Tigers’ offense by retiring the last 14 batters she faced to win her seventh game on the season against four losses.

The effort Iowa State gets from junior hurlers Bice and Martinez will be important to its continued success.

“Jen and Erica are our leaders on the mound. Them having now two years under their belts is pivotal for us,” Crowe said. “You can’t win in the Big 12 if you don’t have good pitching. That’s always been our downside.

“We feel like now we’re getting good pitching and it’s just a matter of who shows up to play the most that day.”

Herrin led the Cyclone offense going 5-for-6 on the day.

“She doing a great job, as long as she’s seeing the ball well she can hit it hard all the time,” Crowe said.

Laura Browning collected three base hits and Julia Lindsey, Ruby and Shipley each added two hits apiece.

Iowa State was able to avenge 6-4 and 5-3 losses to Missouri (19-20, 0-4) earlier in the season in non-conference action.

“It’s just that much sweeter because they beat us twice at their tournament,” Crowe said. “I told our kids after that tournament they may have won the battle but we will win the war, trust me, when they come our place we will take two. They responded to that.”

With their record improved to 13-8 overall, the Cyclones will try to continue its great start as it hosts No. 22 Texas A&M (24-8, 0-3) Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re going to play some tougher teams, but I think we’ll get better as the year goes on,” Martinez said.