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Iowa State’s Late-Season Surge A Product of ‘Playing With Freedom’

Big 12 Conference

The Iowa State Cyclones have morphed into a team that nobody wants to face over the last several weeks, and took down Baylor, a top-15 team, for the third time in four tries on Thursday.

While a five-seed beating a four-seed in the Big 12 Tournament might not seem like something to write home about, the matter in which Iowa State won the game certainly was.

The Cyclones beat Baylor badly, to the tune of 8-1, and it really wasn’t even that close. Ellie Spelhaug gave up just two hits on the day, struck out six batters, and allowed just one walk, all while facing a Baylor lineup that has maintained a .298 batting average this season.

 

And while that is impressive by itself, the Cyclone offense was who really stole the show. With a season-high 16 hits and an impressive .444 team average, Iowa State showcased a well-oiled offensive machine on Thursday.

This all begs the question: Where has this Iowa State team been all year? The Cyclones entered Big 12 play with an 11-14 record and then got even worse, going 1-10 to start off conference play, dropping them to 12-24.

Then, out of nowhere, they caught fire. Since April 15, Iowa State has doubled its win total for the season, going 12-4 in their last sixteen games. Four of those wins have come against ranked teams and now the Cyclones sit at 25-29 and will play Oklahoma on Friday for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Finals.

 

So, what clicked?

“I think Mo (Angelina Allen) hit it right on the head,” Coach Jamie Pinkerton said with a smile, pointing to his sophomore infielder who went 4-5 with 2 RBI against Baylor. “We went through a tough stretch at the end of February and March in tournament play and nonconference play, which put us in the position that we’re in.

“We knew coming in, we’re on the outside looking in. We have to win the (Big 12) tournament. We’re well aware of that and we knew that we’re a good ball club. We finished fourth last year and we were a bubble team and felt we should’ve been in. Then after as well as the Big 12 did in the World Series… It was the first time in 17 years that the fourth-place team in the Big 12 didn’t go.

 

“I think we put a little bit of pressure on ourselves, but we just realized that we’ve got to go out and play with freedom and play loose. It’s hard to have an in-game interview with them, but that’s the way I want them. I want them having fun, I want them loose, and when you play with freedom good things happen. I think in late February, early March, we were playing tight and we dug ourselves a hole that the only we can get out of it is to win the tournament.”

The Cyclones certainly played loose and had fun on Thursday, regularly seen on camera singing and dancing to songs between innings and plays.

With that kind of confidence and trust in each other, could this team do what only Baylor has done this season and take down Oklahoma? We will see on Friday, as they take on the Sooners on national television (ESPNU) at 1:00 p.m. CT.

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