Oklahoma State softball is business as usual.
The Cowgirls participated in a full fall practice schedule and split their roster into two for scrimmages.
Head coach Kenny Gajewski recalls the first scrimmage between the black and orange squads.
Carrie Eberle, the former ACC Pitcher of the Year, was on the mound throwing to a newly arrived UT Arlington graduate transfer Reagan Wright.
“Regan is a leader that brings a different kind of energy to the squad. At our first intersquad, Carrie struck someone out, and Reagan was pumping her fist,” said Gajewski. “I walked over to her and said I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but I love it.”
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The Cowgirls’ skipper credits the ability to have a relatively normal fall to their athletic department, which chose to keep athletes on campus as long as possible. On December 20th, Oklahoma State reported no active cases with a cumulative case total of 172 since June 1st.
“We had a full fall practice with individuals and team practices. Our AD paved the way for everyone else. We have tested every week. Our hitters got 50+ at-bats against good arms.”
Oklahoma State finished the shortened 2020 season on a 12-game winning streak.
The 19-5 Cowgirls were perfect at home (11-0), including an extra-inning victory over the No. 10-ranked Oregon Ducks.
“We were on the path to be really good and get back to OKC. We were super talented and starting to really come together as a team,” said Gajewski.
Oklahoma State outscored opponents 150 to 41 and accumulated a .302 team batting average under new hitting coach Jeff Cottrill.
With the hiring of pitching coach John Bargfeldt in the summer of 2019, Cottrill was able to take over the Cowgirl offense in 2020.
“Our lineup was good, and the good news is they are all back,” Gajewski said. “I really like the addition of John, allowing Jeff to be a full-time hitting coach. I let go of the offense. I turned it over to Jeff as I got in his way a little bit and wanted him to have that ownership. I like what we are up to.”
The Cowgirls list seven arms on staff, including Eberle, who will be their ace. Eberle sparkled in the circle last season, going 10-1 with a .46 ERA in 76 innings pitched. When asked about how Eberle returned this fall, Gajewski’s excitement was apparent in his voice.
“Carrie is going full strength. She has the biggest guts you’ve ever seen.”
Kelly Maxwell is another option on the mound, throwing the second-most innings (46.1) behind Eberle in the shortened season, and posting a 6-3 record with a 1.51 ERA, .95 WHIP and 57 strikeouts.
Third in the rotation is Logan Simunek, who pitched in some pretty big moments, including the 2019 Super Regional win over defending national champion Florida State. Simunek spins the ball well and has impressive velocity.
“She is a kid I trust, and she’ll be a big asset this season.”
Georgia transfer Alysen Febrey returns at first base after leading the team last season in average (.382), OPS (1.417), home runs (11), RBI (32) and doubles (5). The Peachtree City native was off to quite a start in 2020 and looks to carry that momentum into the spring.
Sydney Pennington will remain at the hot corner after an impressive junior campaign. The Sand Springs, Oklahoma, native batted .375 with a team-leading 30 hits, five doubles, seven home runs and 17 RBI. Gajewski speaks highly of the team captain, asserting she may be the best third baseman he has ever seen.
The Cowgirls remain solid up the middle with Kiley Naomi at shortstop and Karli Petty at second base. Naomi runs well, going a perfect 12-for-12 on the base paths in the shortened season with eight homers.
Hayley Busby is another option on the dirt splitting time in the DP slot as well.
The outfield returns Cheyenne Factor (.305, 18 hits, two doubles, nine RBI), Michaela Richbourg (.333, 24 hits, three doubles, a triple, two home runs and 17 RBI), Mady Lohman (.303) and Chelsea Alexander (.304).
The Cowgirls welcomed a pair of transfers in Wright (UTA) and Jordan Doggett (Georgia). Doggett played for the Bulldogs last season and started 26 games in left field. The graduate transfer is nursing a leg injury but should be back in time for the season. The utility player hit .360 with 27 hits, three doubles, three triples and a pair of home runs.
Joining the two grad transfers are four true freshmen: Scotland David, Avery Hobson, Katelynn Carwile and Savannah Evans.
David, a fleet-footed lefty, is from the Jacksonville area and a player Gajewski can see contributing to the offense.
“This kid can flat out fly and is more a hitter than moving her feet type of kid.”
Hobson boasts even more speed than David. The multi-sport athlete is another rookie outfielder who could be first off the bench as a pinch-runner or defensive specialist.
Pitcher/utility Carwile adds another arm to the Cowgirl staff and has been working closely with Cottrill. According to Gajewski, the Oklahoma native boasts a ton of power at the plate, even with a smaller frame.
Evans, another pitcher/utility player, provides another option in the circle for the Cowgirls. The Oklahoma native hit the mid-60s this fall on the gun.
Big 12 conference schedule
The Big 12 is not going to make any early decisions regarding their season schedule. They are in a “wait and see” holding pattern and expect to add some out of conference games. After the St. Pete’s Clearwater Invitational got canceled, the staff had to start to get creative and may have three different plans on where they are going to open up their season. The situation is fluid and Gajewski is clear about getting games in for the 2021 season.
“If we start on time or late, we are going to play the best schedule that we can. I told Patty (Oklahoma) the same thing. If we are the only two teams that can play, you just tell us when and where we need to be. As long as it is safe, we are going to show up and play. “