How Morgan Day became a critical piece to Oklahoma State softball's postseason puzzle
STILLWATER — Sitting at a table with the Most Outstanding Player trophy from the Big 12 softball tournament by her side, Oklahoma State senior pitcher Morgan Day reflected on previous postseasons in her career.
“I look back a year ago today, and I played in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament,” said Day, who transferred to OSU last summer after four years at Illinois State.
“Lost, went home, was done for the season.”
Now, it feels like Day’s season has only just begun.
As seventh-seeded OSU enters NCAA Regional play at Cowgirl Stadium on Friday, Day is set to be a critical piece of the postseason puzzle — as she has already proven to be.
OSU opens against Fordham at 7:30 p.m. Friday, following the 5 p.m. opener between Nebraska and North Texas in a double-elimination tournament set to conclude on Sunday.
NCAA softball tournament:Get to know Oklahoma State's opponents in Stillwater Regional
Backing up Cowgirl ace Kelly Maxwell, Day is expected to be in the vital role of No. 2 pitcher, with previous second-stringer Miranda Elish still unlikely to pitch because of an injured biceps tendon.
Elish has remained a fixture in the middle of the batting order as the designated player, but has not pitched in a game in nearly a month. She took batting practice on Thursday, but didn’t participate in any of the pitching workouts.
Elish suffered the injury in the first game of a doubleheader against Texas on April 24. Prior to that moment, Day had pitched just twice in the month of April, with Elish and Maxwell dominating Big 12 opponents from the circle.
Having been the ace of the staff at Illinois State, Day had adjusted to her third-string role in Stillwater, though it wasn’t always easy.
“At first, I think she was a little down on herself because the playing time wasn’t what she expected,” Maxwell said. “But seeing her bounce back and respond the way she did — just to keep working and stuff like that — I have all the confidence in her that it’s gonna keep happening like that.”
Day has fostered that confidence from her teammates with exceptional work over the last four weeks.
In the game following Elish's injury, Day allowed a run on seven hits in five innings to earn the win. Overall since April 24, Day has had just one bad outing, giving up six runs in a loss to No. 1 OU — and lots of talented pitchers have been hit hard by the Sooners the last couple of years.
But in her other five appearances, she’s allowed five runs over 24 innings. She gave up a run on six hits over seven innings against Texas in the Big 12 semifinals, then followed it up by allowing a run on three hits over five innings of relief against OU in the title game.
“That’s why I came to Oklahoma State,” Day said. “No matter what role I play on this team, I’m happy to be on this team. I’m grateful that I got to be in the circle (against OU), but whether it was from the circle, from the bullpen, from the dugout, I think I would’ve been just as happy with whatever role I was in.”
For the season, Day has a 2.52 earned-run average with 97 strikeouts in 86 innings pitched. And though she wasn’t often turned to in high leverage situations, she has proven herself capable of handling anything she might see as the Cowgirls try to make their third consecutive trip to the Women’s College World Series.
“It’s been a long haul for her,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “Coming from Illinois State where she was the No. 1 kid, and then not taking a backseat, but just getting her innings when she can. I just kept telling her, ‘Your time is coming, I promise you.’
“To see her go out there and do what she has done here — I’m really proud of the Cowgirl she’s become and that she wanted to be.”
Friday's games at Cowgirl Stadium:
► North Texas (35-14) vs. Nebraska (40-14), 5 p.m. (ESPN+)
► No. 7 OSU (41-12) vs. Fordham (30-20), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+)