Even on days Samantha Clakley is all over the place, she can hardly miss.
Clakley, a senior at Oklahoma State, pitched a no-hitter through five innings on Wednesday night in a game where she felt her defense deserved more credit than herself.
OSU beat North Texas 6-0 at Cowgirl Stadium as the pitcher from Carthage, Texas, set the tone for her defense early on.
After a week off, Clakley assumed there would be some rust with the Cowgirls’ last game being a win against Tulsa on April 26. It didn’t appear like it for her, though, as the control pitcher struck out three and had five assists in her outing.
“Basically, I have to thank my defense,” Clakley said. “They had my back tonight. I had a few strikeouts, but my defense did all the work for me. It was a fun game.”
She attributed some of her success against the Mean Green (29-16) as familiarity because the team was a rival when Clakley played at UT-Arlington before transferring to OSU before her junior season.
OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said that has just been the way Clakley has been pitching since he gave her more outings earlier in the year. Since then, she has earned a conference pitcher of the week award and gotten her earned run average to 1.74, tops on the team.
“Since we have been running her out there on a regular basis, she has been as good as anyone we have,” Gajewksi said. “Super proud of her and the way she handles life with her diabetes and any obstacle that comes her way, she just grinds and doesn’t even know it.”
The lone batter to reach base came in the fifth inning on a Mean Green player who was hit by a pitch to spoil a bid at a perfect game. Clakley is in a zone currently that includes allowing only three runs in her last 28 innings pitched.
“She doesn’t get enough credit here,” Gajewski said. “Maybe that is the way it is and that is some kid’s role and some player’s role. She does her job every day and does it well pitching at a high level.”
Offensively, the Cowgirls (34-11) took a few innings to get into the zone they were on defense, but senior second baseman Madi Sue Montgomery gave the squad confidence early on.
Montgomery earned a double in the first that was the lone Cowgirl hit in a brisk first three innings until she came to the plate again in the fourth. The Burleson, Texas, native then earned another trip to second base to give her 13 doubles on the season, best on the squad.
Gajewski said it helps to have seniors like that he can look forward to in order to get the other players going.
“Anytime you are looking around, you look to those kids first,” Gajewski said. “You see them do it before and over and over again and you have seen they are calm and under control. Madi is one of those kids who is starting to get hot and really go. Her average keeps creeping up there and it is exciting to see her and add to her RBIs. Just continuing to lead us and that is a big deal.”
After a minor slump near the end of March, Montgomery has gotten back into a zone and is hitting .356 on the year. A superstitious player, she said her change in where she gets her pregame meal might have something to do with it. Recently, she has started going to Golden Chick and whether that has anything to do with it, she doesn’t know.
Montgomery’s routine on the field might be paying more dividends toward her improvement as she has learned to believe in her abilities at the plate and stop second-guessing herself.
“Obviously, it is a process. You aren’t going to do well every single at-bat,” Montgomery said. “You would like to, but that isn’t going to happen. I just think trusting the process and seeing good pitches and swing at good pitches and having faith in myself.”
Montgomery would be joined in the double club by junior catcher Mackenzie Thomas, who earned her first extra-base hit of the season as the Cowgirl offense completely woke up from its initial slumber.
Michaela Richbourg brought in the first run on a single, with Taylor Lynch following her up with another RBI hit on an infield single to the right side that Lynch beat out despite still playing on basically one knee after tearing her right anterior cruciate ligament last fall.
Chyenne Factor and Sydney Pennington also brought across runs to put the Cowgirls ahead by a sizeable margin.
Gajewski and pitching coach Jeff Cottrill decided to give some other pitchers more work in the final two innings with a home series against Texas Tech starting Friday.
It was a tough decision for Gajewski to pull the plug on the 5-foot-3 right-hander’s no-hitter, but he knew it would be better for the team.
“It is hard in a way, but the bottom line is that we are playing for bigger things and we need those kids to pitch and we need them to get innings and appearances and back into the repetitious work that we have,” Gajewski said. “… We are all about making sure these kids get their awards and accolades. The bottom line is that we win as a team and I think it was the right move.”
Junior Logan Simunek came in to pitch the sixth and senior Samantha Show tossed the seventh to close out the contest. Clakley said she was told right before the sixth and completely understood the decision, knowing that there is much more at stake in the coming weeks.
“Right before it happened and I said, ‘OK, that’s fine,’” Clakley said. “I think they were trying to get some innings. I would have loved to finish it, but we all need some innings.”
Gajewski hopes this contest against a solid mid-major school in North Texas – which is on track for the best season in program history – will bode well for the series against the Red Raiders in a weekend set that he expects will break attendance records.
“We have that type of setup with weather and a good team coming in here,” Gajewski said. “Should be a fun time here. … There are seats open and we sell the standing room and there are plenty of places to go. I encourage the OSU faithful if they haven’t been to a game to come out here and see the team play.”