Cyclone softball heads to Arizona for Wildcat Invitational


Alexis Russell/Iowa State Daily

Starting pitcher Janessa Jasso takes the mound in the third game of a three-game series against Texas on April 11. 

Anthony Hanson

Iowa State softball returns to the southeast for five games at the Wildcat Invitational in Tucson, Ariz.

After going 2-3 over the weekend at the Mary Nutter Classic in California, Iowa State is receiving votes in the national polls for the second time this season.

The Cyclones fell to No. 5 UCLA and No. 6 Washington by a combined four runs. Pinkerton’s team held UCLA scoreless for five complete innings. Against Washington, Iowa State’s tying run was thrown out at the plate late in the game.

“It’s a fine line between winning and losing in this game,” Iowa State head coach Jamie Pinkerton said. “In both cases, it was one play that opened the door for UCLA and Washington. We learned from it, and we’ll get better from it.”

The only run pitcher Ellie Spelhaug gave up against Washington was unearned. A throwing error advanced the winning run that was scored on a sacrifice fly. Spelhaug threw just over six innings and struck out six against the Huskie lineup. Washington reached the NCAA super regionals last season, and UCLA reached the Women’s College World Series before being knocked out of the postseason.

Iowa State, who secured its first NCAA tournament berth in multiple decades in 2021, knows these are the type of games it will have to win to climb another level as a program.

“We’ve already gone from one level into the NCAA tournament,” Pinkerton said. “Now to be a super-regional team or a World Series competitive team, those are the kinds of games we’ve got to win.”

The Mary Nutter Classic is now behind the Cyclones. Luckily, Iowa State is preparing for another one of those high-stakes games.

Iowa State will now face Arizona on the back end of a doubleheader Friday night. The Wildcats are 16th on the USA Softball Top-25 with a 10-4 record and a year removed from appearing in the Women’s College World Series. Arizona has already suffered losses to No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Alabama this season. The Wildcats also lost to No. 16 Kentucky by a single run.

Iowa State plays Arizona on its home field at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We always talked about having all three aspects,” Iowa State catcher Mikayla Ramos said when asked how exactly the Cyclones can steal a marquee win.

“We had pretty good pitching and defense… I think we let some opportunities go when it came to offense,” Ramos added.

Ramos is among the nation’s hottest hitters at the start of the 2022 season. Her seven home runs and 1.143 slugging percentage are both in the top three nationally. Ramos didn’t have a hit in either the UCLA or Washington games.

Also among the field at the Wildcat Invite are some teams that can boost the Cyclones RPI, Pinkerton said. The metric used for postseason positioning won’t be released until mid-March, but Boise State, who the Cyclones play at 5 p.m. Friday, is 13-2. Taking down the Broncos and their high winning percentage would give Iowa State an RPI boost.

On Saturday, Iowa State has a game against North Dakota, and the Cyclones finish the tournament Sunday with a doubleheader against Texas State at noon and Loyola-Chicago at 2 p.m.