OSU Softball: Cowgirls lead Nebraska to advance to regional final

STILLWATER — Hayley Busby has made a name for herself hitting balls over the fence, but here lately Busby’s aggressive base running has helped the Cowgirls.

Oklahoma State beat Nebraska 7-4 on Saturday to advance to the NCAA Regional Finals. Busby, a 5-foot-7 grad student, went 3-for-3 that day with two RBIs and a run scored.

With the Cowgirls trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning, Busby tied the game when she slipped into third on a defensive pick. Nebraska third baseman Sydney Gray was unable to control the ball, and Busby popped up and rushed across home plate through the coach’s stop sign. OSU, Kenny Gajewski.

“I love running the bases,” Busby said. “Last year, luckily, I was able to run around bases a few more times than this year, but I think that’s actually one of my favorite parts of softball. I’m not that fast. I’m not super slow, but I can play with my eyes. … Sometimes I think I’m a little faster than me, but I feel like when you get a good read of the ball, it doesn’t matter how fast you are as long as you play with your eyes.

That Nebraska error and Busby’s one-on-one play kicked off a four-run inning for the Cowgirls that put the game out of reach. After Busby scored, Chelsea Alexander, who have been electric on the flat for the past few weekends, selected scoring average Julia Cottrill and Kiley Naomi.

Alexander then stole second in time for Katelynn Carwile, an unsung team hero, to double down center left to make it 5-2.

Busby also recorded RBIs in the second and fifth innings. In the second, she doubled down the right field line to score Karli Petty, who had previously singled at bat. In the fifth, Busby looped a ball to the left side of the infield to score Sydney Pennington from third.

Then Busby made some web gems on the court in the top of the sixth. Nebraska’s Abbie Squier looped a ball between the circle and the first, and Busby managed to make a sliding grab to save what would have been an awkward play on the field if the ball had gone down. She then lined up a hard hit ground ball before stepping on the bag to complete the frame.

“If you don’t follow our play, that play that she made, that little pop-up over the mound, that’s a rough play in our game,” Gajewski said. “Most first basemen can’t do it. It was a rally killer for these guys. It could have hurt us very badly. They didn’t have to be rewarded for a hit, but if that ball goes down, it’s going to spin weird because of our ball. Just the little things like that, it’s an instinctual game. She didn’t play many firsts, but she did play a lot of softball. And when you play a lot of softball and you’re careful and you’ve been well coached and she comes from a good family with baseball and all that kind of stuff, you tend to make those kinds of plays.

Busby has had his struggles this season, by his standards anyway. In 2021, Busby set a program record with a .794 hitting percentage, and his 19 home runs were the second in a season in OSU history. She hit just five home runs this season and entered Saturday with a .406 hitting percentage.

“It’s been a tough year,” Busby said. “I just try to find the swing that works for me, the swing that works consistently. I think I’m in a very good position right now to do that.

Busby was the only Cowgirl with three hits Saturday, but Miranda Elish, Pennington and Petty all had two hits. And Alexander had three runs with both RBIs and a run scored. Alexander is on a six-game hitting streak and is averaging .412 with five runs scored in the Cowgirls’ last five games.

Morgan Day pitched all seven rounds of the circle. She gave up all four runs on five hits while walking three, hitting one and striking out two. Day has a knack for taking advantage of OSU’s strong defense, as the Cowgirls haven’t given up on a mistake in the regional in two games.

OSU advances to the Finals where, at the time of writing, the Cowgirls could face Nebraska, North Texas or Fordham at 3 p.m. Sunday. OSU is one win away from qualifying for the super regional round of the NCAA tournament and since they haven’t lost so far, OSU may take two games to get that win.

Post-match press conference

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