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Oklahoma State Softball

Cowgirls Gathered Themselves and Advanced to Winner's Game, Florida Again

June 3, 2022
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Welcome to the new NCAA Women’s College World Series where it is much more player and team friendly and off days are now built into a schedule that also does not cram in so many games in one day that you can wind up playing until the wee hours of the morning. The new layout allows that if weather puts a game behind that game can be pushed a day rather than played at a ridiculous time. That said, everybody can get into an Oklahoma State and Florida match-up. No. 7-seed Oklahoma State beat Arizona in an entertaining give and take WCWS opener 4-2, while No. 14-seed Florida beat Oregon State 7-1. This pits Gators head coach Tim Walton and his former OU baseball teammate and former Florida assistant coach Kenny Gajewski. The two teams will now meet in the winner’s bracket game on Saturday (June 4) at 6 p.m.

Oklahoma State Athletics
Kenny Gajewski talking to Elish on Senior Day.

The media is going to make a big deal of that kind of matchup, we all already have as the Cowgirls opened the 2019 WCWS with a 2-1 win over Walton and the Gators.

Asked if he thought his program and Florida and Walton were past this being a big deal Gajewski responded.

“I hope so,” answered the Cowgirls leader. “We’ve done this before.”

It’s not like it was in 2019 when Samantha Show homered and bat flipped into the 2019 Women’s College World Series and it was all new for the Cowgirls after an eight-year absence from OKC. These Cowgirls have been here three times in a row. They are the Big 12 Champions having knocked off top-ranked Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament Championship Game 4-3 in eight innings.

Gajewski has a line-up of mostly veterans that while falling behind to Arizona in game one 2-1 didn’t blink. Their coach was a little frustrated, thought they were sluggish, but one of those veteran players, Miranda Elish, begged to differ.

OSU Cowgirls Softball Twitter
Elish celebrates at second after her double.

The Cowgirls sent 24 players to the plate in the game and 18 of those went to two strikes in the count, all but one falling behind in the count either 0-2 or 1-2. That can be a problem for some teams offensively, but Elish said it wasn’t. She should know as she fell behind in each at bat while going 2-for-2 and working a walk. All three hitters in the winning sixth-inning sequence Elish (walk), Pennington (single), and Petty (three-run homer) were down to their last strike.

“You have three strikes for a reason, so you just have to get your hacks in,” Elish said matter-of-fact. “You have to find a pitch that you want, and even if you get down 0-2 you still have one more swing to take and you can’t let that count get in your head too much.”

“I was a little disappointed with the way we started the game. They (Arizona) came out hacking and we didn’t,” Gajewski detailed. “I said, ‘guys we were swinging at pitches over our head on first pitches and we’re just out of character.’ I didn’t know if we were pressing or trying to do too much. I got them up in the third or the fourth inning and and said, ‘hey we’ve got to chill out. Kelly is pitching well. We just need to have some good at bats.’ It was good to see what Pennington did here today. Elish is just Elish, the moment is never too big, and Karli has been going very, very good.”

Now, something else to remember, the new format and schedule with the day off gives Gajewski and others the option of staying with the same pitcher. Ace Kelly Maxwell, who may be the best pitcher left in the country in this WCWS is used to a day off. You could even go into the game telling Maxwell and Morgan Day they are both going to throw, similar to the winning plan against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament.

NCAA WCWS
Maxwell with 14 K’s vs. Arizona.

Gajewski knows that right now, Maxwell is tough on any hitter.

“The fact that she could power through late there (in the game) was big. She couldn’t do that last year,” Gajewski said. “I turned to one of our coaches in the fourth or fifth (inning) and said, ‘Kelly looks different here this year.’ She looks like she is coming at you. Last year against Florida State, she just looked ho hum. She wasn’t feeling her way through, she was coming at hitters.”

She could be ready to do that again on Saturday night. Maxwell had the 14 strike outs in the win over Arizona, but in the NCAA Tournament she has 55 strike outs. That while allowing two runs, 11 hits, and four walks, one hit batter. The more she can throw within reason and with rest, the better.

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Cowgirls Gathered Themselves and Advanced to Winner's Game, Florida Again

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