The Iowa State softball program has put up its highest win total since 1989 this season — going 32-23.
Their 7-11 record in the Big 12 earned them the fifth seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
In the final series of the regular season, the Cyclones swept Kansas in thrilling fashion, winning all three games by a margin of four runs combined.
In two of the three games, Sami Williams ended it with a walk-off home run in extra innings.
“Having that momentum and knowing that we can come out and fight and play for seven innings or more than that is huge,” said senior pitcher Savannah Sanders, who threw a shutout in game two.
Their momentum showed as in the first game of the conference tournament, Iowa State pulled off a 2-0 upset over the No. 8 Texas Longhorns.
Although they lost 2-17 to Oklahoma State in the following game, the win over Texas showed on a national stage that Iowa State is capable of beating quality opponents.
With the strong finish to the season, the Cyclones moved to No. 52 in the RPI Rankings, which is a key factor in what the NCAA uses to determine the 64-team NCAA Tournament field.
Even though the Cyclones were ranked in the top 64 teams, they did not make the field because 32 of the 64 spots go to automatic bids for teams that win their conference tournament and the rest of the teams that made the field by at-large bid were ranked higher in the RPI.
While Iowa State fell short from an at-large bid, they did perform well enough to automatically qualify for the NISC (National Invitational Softball Championship) Tournament by being the highest Big 12 seed to not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
In fact, they were chosen as a host region for the tournament by being one of the highest rated RPI teams to not make the NCAA.
“I’m happy for the athletes because what they went through [records from the previous years], they deserve another shot in the postseason,” said coach Jamie Pinkerton.
This is the first time that the Cyclones have made a postseason tournament since 1988.
Iowa State will face the winner of Purdue versus South Dakota in the second round of the tournament.
The Cyclones receives a bye in the opening round since they are the hosting team.
“It is like a train — the wheels started slow but eventually we got it going,” Pinkerton said. “To still have something to play for, that’s awesome.”
The Boilermakers (31-27, 6-17 Big 10) are coming into the tournament on a bit of a skid, losing 10 of their last 11 games.
They lost in the second round of their conference tournament 3-4 to No. 14 Minnesota after defeating Rutgers in the opening round.
The Coyotes (33-26, 12-6 Summit) and Cyclones played on April 2 in Ames.
In that game, the Cyclones emerged victorious 9-1 in five innings, thanks to a two home runs and a seven-RBI performance from second baseman Kasey Simpson.
South Dakota defeated the sixth-seeded Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons in the Summit League Tournament before falling in the championship to the first-seeded North Dakota State Bison.
No matter who the Cyclones play, they will be taking the field at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
The tournament is double elimination with the 19 teams broken up four regions.
The winner of each region will head to Fort Collins, Colorado from May 24-26 for the championship round of the NISC.
“To make a run, we just have to continue to do what we’ve done all season, which is be gritty, be determined, always know that we’re in the game,” Pinkerton said.
Source: Iowa State Daily