Softball faces ‘daunting task’ in No. 1 Sooners


Iowa State junior Carli Spelhaug gets ready for the next pitch in the outfield during the Cyclones’ 12–4 loss to Northern Iowa on April 6.

Anthony Hanson

Iowa State softball hits the road with a three-game series against the Oklahoma Sooners, the nation’s No. 1 team winner of three of the last five national championships.

Not exactly an easy task. But Iowa State head coach Jamie Pinkerton said the Sooners are playing even better than what he’s seen in recent seasons.

And the Cyclones will get to experience it first-hand Friday and Saturday in Norman.

“This may be the best college softball team ever assembled,” Pinkerton said of Oklahoma. “It’s a daunting task.”

The defending national champions started the season on a 38-game win streak, a record no team in the history of Division I softball has accomplished.

Oklahoma leads the nation in nine major statistical categories, including batting average, home runs, scoring per game and earned run average. The Sooners held the third-longest overall win streak in college softball history before No. 18 Texas handed Oklahoma its first loss Saturday.

Iowa State’s last opportunity against St. Thomas was postponed due to rain in the area, missing one last opportunity before facing Oklahoma to get a bad taste out of its mouth, Pinkerton said.

With that said, the Cyclones remain at the .500 mark with 21 wins and 21 losses.

Most recently, Iowa State lost the final two games of a series with Texas Tech in Ames. The Red Raiders jumped ahead with big first innings, then sustained leads by shutting down Iowa State offensively. The Cyclones earned four hits in the final two games of the series.

Considering Oklahoma’s historic numbers of home runs and dominant performances from the pitching staff, Pinkerton said Iowa State needs to regroup and move forward. 

The Oklahoma pitching staff has created six no-hitters this season, and 13 members of the lineup have home runs. 

2021 Player of the Year and Oklahoma utility player Jocelyn Alo leads the nation with a .485 batting average. Her 21 home runs have earned her a slugging percentage of 1.245. Alo individually leads the nation in four major offensive categories. 

Fifth-year senior and North Texas transfer Hope Trautwein leads the nation in earned run average and has accumulated 107 strikeouts on the season. 

“I think they [the Cyclones] totally understand the task,” Pinkerton said. “You just got to collect yourself and come back and play the game the way you’re capable of playing.”

Iowa State will face Oklahoma in Norman for the first time since 2018. Pinkerton played Oklahoma consistently as an assistant at Tulsa and faced the national powerhouse twice in the NCAA tournament as head coach at Arkansas.

Specifically, Iowa State’s regrouping effort will require a staple of its pitching staff using extra bullpen reps to return to form.

Iowa State junior Karlie Charles has suffered a pitching loss in each of her last three starts. In Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech, Charles did not appear despite throwing just one inning in the prior day’s game. 

“Early in the season, she was nails,” Pinkerton said. “We’d bring her in and she’d get out of innings.”

Charles started the season 6-1, but her pitching record has since fallen to 7-5. 

As a cerebral pitcher, Charles has focused on tightening spin and hitting location in practice, Pinkerton said. The head coach predicted a full return to form for his veteran starting pitcher. 

Charles is second among Big 12 pitchers in strikeout-to-walk ratio behind only Jordy Bahl from Oklahoma. 

The series opener will be played at 4 p.m. Friday from Norman, Okla., with a doubleheader continuing immediately following. The series finale will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday.