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NCAA Softball: First look at Oklahoma State, Arizona’s opening opponent in the Women’s College World Series

arizona-softball-madi-elish-transfer-pitcher-purdue-indiana Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Last offseason, there was hope in the hearts of many of the Arizona softball faithful. After sitting out the 2021 season at Texas, former Oregon pitcher Miranda Elish was in the transfer portal. With her younger sister Madi Elish headed to Tucson for her freshman season, could the Wildcats get two pitchers for the price of one?

It didn’t work out that way. Madi has pitched 77.1 innings for the Wildcats in her first season. Big sister Miranda found her way to Stillwater, Okla. to play for the Oklahoma State Cowgirls. Now, the two will see each other in their first game in the Women’s College World Series.

While the elder Elish sister has had flashes of her old brilliance, she has not pitched since April 24 due to an injury to her right bicep suffered against Texas. Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski told the Oklahoman that it was a “pretty significant injury to a tendon”

The injury has cost the Cowgirls a pitcher who has thrown 104 innings with a 2.09 ERA this season, but she’s still providing punch for the team even though she isn’t pitching. She is sporting a .351 batting average as she continues to hit for Oklahoma State. In the postseason, she has gone 5-for-13 as her team has amassed a 5-0 record on its way to the WCWS.

The absence of Miranda Elish removes the Cowgirls’ second-best pitcher from consideration, but they have a very strong bullpen led by ace Kelly Maxwell. Maxwell sports a 1.16 ERA and 0.83 WHIP over 169 innings. The redshirt junior has a 19-4 record in 32 appearances including 25 starts.

Behind Maxwell is another grad transfer, former Illinois State star Morgan Day. In four years with the Redbirds, she had a 2.68 ERA, culminating in a 1.63 her senior season. There’s been little drop-off for her as she moved up from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big 12, where she has a 2.56 ERA in her redshirt senior season.

As a staff, the Cowgirls are formidable in the circle. The group has a 1.84 ERA and is limiting opponents to 0.96 walks and hits per inning. Batters are hitting just .176 against the Oklahoma State pitching staff.

The team has three hitters with at least 10 home runs: Julia Cottrill (11), Sydney Pennington (10), and Chyenne Factor (10). Six Cowgirls hit over .300 with Katelyn Carwile and Miranda Elish both hitting the mark just over .350.

The Cowgirls also cause disruption on the base paths. They have attempted 78 stolen bases and found success 64 times.

Arizona counters with a much stronger lineup but a more unstable pitching situation. The Wildcats’ pitchers have been impressive in the offseason after a regular season that included some rough patches.

Sophomore Devyn Netz has pitched two complete games and fifth-year senior Hanah Bowen has pitched three. Bowen has given up five earned runs in 22 innings against Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi State. Netz has surrendered just one earned run in 14 innings against the Tigers and the Bulldogs and has a WHIP of 0.93.

The concern is whether that can hold, especially for Bowen, because of the number of baserunners she is allowing. While Netz has lowered her WHIP considerably in the postseason, Bowen is still allowing 1.36 walks and hits per inning.

Both pitchers have improved their WHIP in the postseason compared to the regular season. Netz has dropped hers from 1.33 while Bowen has dropped hers from 1.40. But Bowen is still allowing a considerable number of baserunners. With the havoc Oklahoma State’s base stealers can create on the basepaths, it will be important for Bowen to try to limit the opportunities for them to do so and for her defense to be on its toes.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include stats from Hanah Bowen’s appearance against Illinois.