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  • The Oklahoman

    How Oklahoma State softball's Micaela Wark saw season turn since father's home run catch

    By Scott Wright, The Oklahoman,

    20 days ago

    STILLWATER — On a Tuesday night nearly two months ago at Cowgirl Stadium, Oklahoma State sophomore Micaela Wark rounded first base after hitting a home run — her first in several games as she battled through a small slump — and saw her father holding the ball in celebration.

    Bill Wark had caught the home run in the left-field fan deck and screamed for his daughter as she trotted toward second base.

    “That’s never happened before,” Micaela said with a laugh. “It’s funny, I was in a little slump, and my mom would always be like, ‘Look in left field, we’re always waving our hands to catch the ball.’

    “I actually looked, and it was a weird coincidence that happened.”

    With unseeded Arizona bringing its potent offense to Cowgirl Stadium for the best-of-three Stillwater Super Regional , beginning with the first game at 7 p.m. Friday, fifth-seeded OSU will need production throughout the lineup.

    More: How Oklahoma State softball coach Kenny Gajewki's risky assistant coaching hires paid off

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    And Wark has been a key piece of the Cowgirl offense, particularly since breaking out of that March slump with her dad’s home run grab.

    A year ago as a freshman, Wark smoothly settled into her role playing first base and hitting in the middle of the lineup for the Oklahoma State softball team.

    But her sophomore season brought challenges.

    A meniscus injury that will require postseason surgery limited her during a slow start to the season as she got used to playing not only with pain, but also with a large brace on her knee.

    She was replaced as the first baseman, instead slotting in as the designated player. And she saw her name slide down from the cleanup spot to the bottom third of the batting order.

    In mid-March, her batting average had dipped to .250 and her power numbers were down from the previous season when she set the school record for home runs by a freshman.

    But since then, Wark has looked more like her previous self. She has raised her average to .285 and she has matched her home run total of last year with 10. She homered in each of the Cowgirls’ Bedlam victories, and had four hits and four RBIs in the series overall.

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    “We talk about enjoying the suck here,” Gajewski said. “You have to learn how to be OK when you suck. Just understand it’s gonna get better.

    “She’s been battling her knees. It’s a constant, every-day battle. If you could really get to the truth, I think she was really upset about not playing first. She’s a competitor. She wants to be on the field, no matter what. She still gets mad when I pinch-run for her sometimes. So it took some time to get through that.”

    After OSU went through a change at hitting coach, promoting Vanessa Shippy-Fletcher in December , Wark needed some time to get comfortable with the adjusted approach.

    “Working with Shippy, and trying to work through things slowly but surely has been the best thing for me,” Wark said. “Not getting frustrated with myself. Because when I play when I’m frustrated, I’m not as good as I am just being free.

    “Finding peace with myself while I’m playing has been one of the best things. I don’t feel like I’m far off, so it’s just been minor adjustments I’ve been making in my hitting.”

    As Wark learned how to handle the knee pain and accepted her altered role, she began returning to form and emerged as a dangerous bat in the bottom of the order.

    As the offseason approaches, she’s looking forward to putting her knee injury behind her, too.

    “We’ve been doing a lot of treatment and scheduled a surgery for after the season to get it all figured out,” Wark said. “Hopefully, next season I can play more in the field, or if not, at least hit without pain. So I’m excited for next season, too.”

    Scott Wright covers Oklahoma State athletics for The Oklahoman. Have a story idea for Scott? He can be reached at swright@oklahoman.com or on Twitter at @ScottWrightOK . Sign up for the Oklahoma State Cowboys newsletter to access more OSU coverage. Support Scott’s work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com or by using the link at the top of this page.

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    This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: How Oklahoma State softball's Micaela Wark saw season turn since father's home run catch

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