Cyclones fall to No. 1 Oklahoma in home opener


Tyler Coe

Tiana Poole swings the bat in game one against Oklahoma on Mar. 24, 2023.

AMES – Iowa State softball lost to No. 1 Oklahoma in its Big 12 opener and first home game Friday evening.

Iowa State fell 3-0 to the nation’s top team led by one of the nation’s top pitchers. The Cyclone lineup was limited to just one hit in the loss to the defending national champions. Oklahoma improved to 27-1 while the Cyclones fell to 11-15 on the season.

The Cyclones faced the daunting Oklahoma offense by committee. Right-handed pitcher Ellie Spelhaug received the start while Jaiden Ralston and Saya Swain provided relief. Spelhaug returned in the sixth inning to close.

Iowa State’s staff allowed seven hits and recorded five strikeouts in the matchup.

“The pitching staff and the game plan that we had was in order,” Iowa State head coach Jamie Pinkerton said.

The Sooners were held to less than three runs for just the fourth time this season by the committee of Cyclone pitchers. The collaboration in the circle was by design, Pinkerton said postgame. The focus was on limiting any momentum sparked by Oklahoma hitters, the head coach said.

“You gotta keep them off balance,” Pinkerton said.

The true freshman Ralston entered after 1.1 innings pitched and after Spelhaug allowed two singles. Ralston allowed an RBI double to right-center field in her first at-bat in the circle and the first Oklahoma run crossed the plate.

Ralston finished the second inning, but Pinkerton chose to provide the Oklahoma hitters with another different look to start the third. Iowa State junior Saya Swain commanded the circle for the next 3.2 innings. Swain allowed three hits and made four strikeouts during her outing Friday evening.

Swain’s approach was unchanged while facing the Oklahoma lineup with big-inning potential.

“I knew my goal going in was to pound the zone,” Swain said. “I just want to be aggressive towards them also. They’re Oklahoma but I feel like I didn’t want to change my game plan.”

Swain entered Friday’s matchup with 63 strikeouts and is the strikeout leader for Iowa State. Swain was also Iowa State’s strikeout leader during her sophomore season in 2022.

“I just saw straight determination,” Iowa State catcher Mikayla Ramos said about Swain’s performance. “Saya is dirty. She has some movement. Being behind the plate is so cool to see because I get to see the work she puts in behind the scenes.”

After Swain completed her duties in the circle, Spelhaug returned to pitch for Iowa State. She allowed one run in the sixth after Iowa State walked the bases loaded making the score 3-0.

A defensive miscue allowed the second Oklahoma Sooner to score in the second inning. Designated hitter Haley Lee was caught between home and third in a rundown after a ground ball to second base.

When two Sooners occupied third base, the trailing runner Kinzie Hansen was called out. Lee, however, jogged back towards the Oklahoma dugout. Lee was not tagged by any Cyclone defenders and touched the plate to secure a run for the Sooners.

Oklahoma starting pitcher Alex Storako completed seven complete innings pitched and allowed only one Cyclone hitter to reach base.

Storako held the 13th best earned run average in college softball entering Friday’s game. She improved her overall record to 11-0 after her complete game shutout of the Cyclones. Overall, Oklahoma has the third best earned run average in college softball.

Next, the Cyclones will play a doubleheader against Oklahoma beginning 1 p.m. Saturday at the Cyclone Sports Complex.