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OSU Softball: Depth Appears to Be a Strength for New-Look Cowgirls

‘There are about 12 to 13 hitters that are showing us right now that they should be playing.’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — The Cowgirls will have a bit of a different look this season, but early signs suggest the group has a ton of depth.

Oklahoma State starts its softball season with a game against Cal State-Northridge at 3 p.m. Thursday in California. Names like Kiley Naomi, Chyenne Factor, Taylor Tuck and Kelly Maxwell have been staples for Kenny Gajewski and Co. over the past five or so seasons. With that group gone, some new faces will have to fill in and carry on the torch that has seen the Cowgirls make the past four Women’s College World Series.

There will be some standouts OSU fans will recognize — like superstar sophomore Tallen Edwards or pitcher Lexi Kilfoyl — but there will also be others the fanbase isn’t as familiar with just quite yet. But what the Cowgirls might lack in initial name recognition, they’ll apparently make up for in sheer depth.

“There are about 12 to 13 hitters that are showing us right now that they should be playing,” Gajewski said. “That is what’s hard. Unfortunately — or maybe it’s fortunately and that’s why this kids are here — they put a lot of value in are they in the opening-day lineup when I just told you we’re going to have multiple lineups the first week, multiple starters. But they value that in ways they shouldn’t, but they do and I get it.”

Gajewski said he has talked a lot about his 2019 squad with this group. That team was Gajewski’s first to make the WCWS. It featured Naomi, Factor, Maxwell and Tuck as true freshmen. Sydney Pennington and Chelsea Alexander were sophomores. It was the Samantha Show team.

As late as Monday, Gajewski said at his preseason media day that he wasn’t totally sure what the lineup would look like or even what positions certain players would play. He said these opening weeks are going to feature a lot of movement as OSU tries to pin down what will be best to get the Cowgirls to Oklahoma City again.

He mentioned returners Edwards, Kilfoyl, Megan Bloodworth, Micaela Wark, Katie Lott, Claire Timm and Scotland David as potential contributors.

Starting with Edwards, Gajewski seems to be asking a lot from the sophomore who should technically be a freshman had she not enrolled a year early and skipped her final season at Southmoore High School.

Edwards hit .328 in her freshman season, recording 11 doubles, three home runs and 26 RBIs. After reclassifying, Edwards was the No. 3 overall prospect in Extra Inning Softball’s “Extra Elite 100” ranking. She was a D1 Softball freshman All-American last season.

No matter the differing lineups, expect Edwards to play a large role.

“I’m really wanting Tallen to be our top-of-the-order kid,” Gajewski said. “She’s got all that in her to be that. She can do so many things. She’s the best player on this team.”

Gajewski also said Kilfoyl, a pitcher, has been swinging the bat well. She had just 30 at-bats last season, where she hit .233 with a home run and four RBIs.

Wark hit .314 as a redshirt freshman in 2023. Lott wasn’t an everyday player as a true freshman but made an impact at the plate, hitting .370 in 54 at-bats. Timm hit .276 in 29 at-bats as a true freshman.

Knee injury after knee injury has delayed David’s impact on the diamond. She enters her senior season having taken just 20 career at-bats — 18 of those came last season, where she hit .278.

So all of those players are a year wiser, but Gajewski also has some new blood that will make an impact.

Transfers Caroline Wang and Jilyen Poullard ought to impact things after uber-successful careers at Liberty and McNeese, respectively.

And Gajewski has never shied away from playing freshmen. He mentioned Karli Godwin and Rosie Davis as names to watch.

Out of Readyville, Tennessee, Davis was an All-State selection in softball and basketball. Listed as an infielder, Davis hit .531 as a high schooler.

Godwin hails from Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina. She was a top-10 player in the 2023 recruiting class, according to Extra Inning Softball and Softball America. She had a ridiculous senior season at East Columbus High School, hitting .731 with 20 home runs.

“We have a young freshman in Karli Godwin that I think right now might be one of the best hitters on our team,” Gajewski said. “So she’ll be at the top of that order somewhere up there high.”

Needless to say, Gajewski has his work cut out for him putting together a lineup. But it sounds like it’ll be a good problem to have.

“Our lineup is going to shift a bunch,” Gajewski said. “Early on, I would say the first three weeks, it’s going to shift a bunch. We may move people down, up, even if they’re going good or not just to see what’s the best mix for this. Again, like we’ve always talked through this, I want to be very good at the end. Not concerned with the start. Obviously you want to win, but I want to figure out what will help us win in May and June.”

Emphasis on Staff

Gajewski said the Cowgirls are looking toward Florida State as to how they handle their pitching staff in 2024.

Kilfoyl will play the role of Kathryn Sandercock. Sandercock pitched 193.3 innings in 2023 for the Seminoles, but she started just 25 of her 48 appearances in the circle. Sandercock led the Seminoles to the championship series, pitching 20 2/3 innings in Oklahoma City, but she started just two of the Seminoles’ five WCWS games.

“The most important innings in games are usually four, five, six and seven,” Gajewski said. “They’re the high-leverage innings. There’s a lot of leverage situations throughout a game where, let’s use Ivy (Rosenberry) for example. Maybe she could be an opener, where you’re looking for her to get six, maybe nine outs. And then you go to a Kilfoyl, who we think is our lead arm, and you go to her to close out games.”

Gajewski on Monday primarily spoke of three options to compliment Kilfoyl: senior Ivy Rosenberry, sophomore Kyra Aycock and freshman Katie Kutz.

Rosenberry transferred into Stillwater from Virginia Tech ahead of last season. In her first year with the Cowgirls, Rosenberry pitched just 37 innings, amassing a 2.65 ERA. By the sounds of it, she has taken a step forward entering this year.

“Rosenberry, she has really improved here in this one fall,” Gajewski said. “I’m excited to watch her go out there and compete.”

Aycock complimented Kilfoyl and Maxwell well as a freshman last season, pitching 95 innings, where she had a 2.51 ERA.

Lastly, Kutz was the No. 6 player in her recruiting class, per Softball America. Her high school career maybe couldn’t be replicated in a video game. She went 44-0 with an ERA under 0.50.

“We’re going to be more of a staff,” Gajewski said. “Whether we had Kelly back or not, we were gonna be a staff. I think we’ve shown that we’re kind of at a spot where it’s time to take that next step as we go along.”

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