Ashley Kirk refused to dwell on the details of her last outing, but she was bent on quickly making amends.
A day after being yanked in the first inning of an eight-run loss to Texas, the North Texas senior went the distance Wednesday in a battle with Oklahoma State ace Simone Freeman. With the game tied at 3, Kirk relied on her offense, which benefited from a costly OSU error to eke out a 4-3 walk-off win.
The win snapped a four-game home losing streak for UNT (17-7) and gave Kirk career win No. 50.
“My mindset coming into tonight was to just get better and make my pitches,” Kirk said. “You have to look at some games as an opportunity to get better, because if you are always doing well you won’t appreciate it as much. You have to take the highs with the lows and learn to make things better the next time out.”
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, North Texas’ Dani Hoff and Jordan Terry ripped back-to-back singles to left field. Two batters later, with runners still on first and second and two outs, Kat Strunk hit a slow roller to third base, which forced a hurried throw that sailed over the head of first baseman Tarah Ettinger. Terry scored from second to end the game. It was the Cowgirls’ only error of the night.
“I knew I didn’t hit it hard enough, so I was trucking it [to first] and all I saw at the last minute was the first baseman come off the bag right in front of me,” Strunk said. “All I kept thinking was get to the base.”
OSU (15-9) had tied the game at 3 in the top of the sixth off a wild pitch from Kirk.
Kirk (11-3) did take her share of lumps against OSU, but she kept the Mean Green in a more manageable situation compared with her previous outing. In Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader with Texas, she gave up six runs in the first inning and was pulled after facing just nine batters.
After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the second inning, Kirk settled down and allowed just three hits over the next three innings. OSU stranded four runners during that stretch.
Freeman (11-4) entered the night leading the nation with 139 strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit until the bottom of the fourth, when North Texas scraped together three runs on four hits. Taylor Schoblocher started the surge with an RBI double, then Strunk drilled a two-run homer for a 3-2 lead.
Freeman finished the game with four strikeouts to increase her total to 143. Kirk finished with six.
“At this point, I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss,” North Texas coach Tracey Kee said. “They [OSU] were stellar on defense all night, but it ended up falling into our hands at the end. We needed a tough win.”