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Five Thoughts on the 2023 Oklahoma State Softball Season

The Cowgirls’ season ends at 47-16.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


OKLAHOMA CITY — For the fourth straight (full) season, the Cowgirls year comes to an end with a loss at Hall of Fame Stadium.

Oklahoma State fell to Tennessee 3-1 on Sunday as the teams vied for a spot in the Women’s College World Series semifinals. OSU ends the year at 47-16. Here are five thoughts on the season.

1. Kenny Gajewksi Meets His High Standard

Overall, it wasn’t a great school year for OSU Athletics. Football had a down year, men’s hoops failed to make the NCAA Tournament, wrestling had a rough NCAA Tournament, men’s golf failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly forever, baseball went 0-2 in an NCAA Regional it hosted (sorry to briefly make you relive all that), but Kenny Gajewksi’s team still made it to the Women’s College World Series as one of the best eight teams in the sport.

It’s OK to be disappointed with how the Cowgirls finished the regular season, and it’s OK to be upset about this game. But even after entering the NCAA Tournament having won two of their past 13 games, the Cowgirls answered the call and reached the standard OSU softball has set over recent seasons.

It’d be like basketball making the Elite Eight four years in a row or football making a New Year’s Six Bowl four years in a row. OSU softball has entered blue-blood status in the sport and has done so in relatively quick time. This wasn’t the Cowgirls’ best year, but that says it all when looking at what the Cowgirls have done lately.

“I’m just so proud of what these kids have continued to do here at OSU,” Gajewski said. “They raised the bar again. We fell short and that part hurts. That part is the toughest part, but like I told them, if you’ll just keep kicking shins, they’ll eventually break. That’s what we’re gonna do. We’re just going to keep kicking the shins of our opponents and we’ll eventually break this door down. We’ll look back to teams like this, I call them Team 8. We’ve had many more teams here at OSU, but it’s my eighth team. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids and what they’ve done. I’m just honored to coach them. I’m honored to have this job. I’m just thankful.

“So, we’ll take some time and regroup and figure out how we can improve and we’ll be back. We’ll right back here next year and make another run.”

2. Maxwell’s Late-Season Struggles Shouldn’t Overshadow Her Solid Year

Like nearly the entire team, Kelly Maxwell had her fair share of struggles late this season, but she ends the first of what will be two senior seasons with the Cowgirls with a 1.91 ERA and 229 strikeouts.

Yes, she had issues with walks to close the season, but she was also two outs away from a perfect game to send the Cowgirls back to Oklahoma City.

She has 746 career strikeouts, which ranks fourth on OSU’s all-time list. She’s 405 away from Lauren Bay’s all-time record, which would take a Herculean effort to reach, but second is very much in play, as she trails Jessica Hoppock by just 100 Ks.

Maxwell is still an elite arm in the college softball landscape, and the Cowgirls will be lucky to have her back in 2024.

3. Rachel Becker, An All-Time Great One-Year Cowgirl

Rachel Becker deserved the shot she got in Oklahoma City.

In four years at Purdue, Becker started 187 games (every game possible), and she hit .394 as a Boilermaker. However, she never played in the NCAA Tournament, much less at the WCWS.

So, she made it to Stillwater as a graduate transfer this season and all she did was hit .443, leading the Cowgirls in hits (81), doubles (22), triples (2), runs scored (63) and walks drawn (46). There might’ve not been a better leadoff batter in college softball than Rachel Becker. She won’t go down as celebrated as some of her teammates just because of her short time in Stillwater, but dang, she was good.

4. Kiley Naomi Finishes Strong

Kiley Naomi had a befuddling 2022. She had an outstanding 2023 to end her college career.

Naomi hit .366 this season, up .142 from 2022. Going further, she had 44 more RBIs and seven more home runs this season. She finishes her career with 47 home runs, which ties Sydney Pennington for the most in program history.

From Lafayette, Louisiana, Naomi came to Stillwater in 2019 and was the Cowgirls starting shortstop from the jump. She finishes her career with a .306 batting average on 771 at-bats. She saved her best for last, as she had her best season batting average, most hits, most doubles, most RBIs (by a lot) and fewest strikeouts (excluding the shortened 2020 season) in her final year.

“I’m just really grateful to be a part of such an amazing program and to be able to get here for the fourth time is just the best experience ever. But I’m also really, really sad because I never get to be with these girls ever again. So, I’m just feeling a lot right now.”

5. The Future Is Bright (Orange)

Oklahoma State’s freshman class this season was as good a freshman class Gajewski has had.

Tallen Edwards, Micaela Wark, Kyra Aycock, Katie Lott, Claire Timm and Haidyn Sokoloski all played in at least 26 games as freshmen on a WCWS team.

Edwards is a bonafide star already, enrolling a year early to start 58 games while hitting .328 with 40 runs scored and 26 RBIs.

Wark, a redshirt freshman, started 59 games and hit .314 with 51 RBIs and 10 home runs.

Aycock threw 95 innings in her freshman season. She finished the year with a 2.51 ERA and went 9-2.

Katie Lott had a tough time getting on the field with the experience in front of her, but in 54 at-bats, she casually hit .370.

All that is to say, don’t worry. It doesn’t appear the Cowgirls are going anywhere.

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