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OSU Softball: Maxwell Dominates, Cowgirls Headed to Super Regionals

Maxwell had no walks and 15 strikeouts Sunday.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — All Kelly Maxwell needed to send her team to Supers was a lone run. The Cowgirls spoiled her with two.

Oklahoma State defeated North Texas 2-0 on Sunday in the teams’ NCAA Regional final after Maxwell dominated the Mean Green from the circle. OSU’s lefty ace threw all seven innings where she allowed two hits, no walks and struck out 15. The Cowgirls advance to host Clemson in a three-game series next weekend after the Tigers went unbeaten in their regional.

Striking out 15 of the 23 batters she faced has to be some sort of personal record, right? It’s not. It’s somewhat common for Maxwell. She struck out 18 against Kansas on April 15, 17 against Minnesota on March 9 and 16 against Texas Tech on March 25. She strikes people out. It’s what she does.

“I don’t think it’s a secret — she’s really good,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “Really proud of her. Just had complete command. The off-speed was really, really going down hard. They had a hard time making adjustments, a lot of swings and misses. This time a year, you don’t see that a lot.”

Maxwell gave up base runners in the first and fourth innings. The closest North Texas came to the plate was when Molly Rainey hit a leadoff double in the fourth and advanced to third on a flyout. But with a runner 60 feet from the plate, Maxwell coolly got a strikeout to end the inning.

Maxwell’s performance was made all the more impressive by the fact that she was doing it with some added pressure by OSU’s lack of run support.

But in the sixth, Miranda Elish provided all the support Maxwell ended up needing. With two outs, Elish battled to a full count after starting behind 1-2. It would’ve been a good at-bat had it ended in a walk or a single, but Elish roped a ball over the right-field fence to make it 1-0. It was Elish’s seventh home run of the season.

“Even though I went down [in the count] right away, that doesn’t mean my at-bat is over,” Elish said. “I think we’ve done a really good job as a team doing some mental preparation for situations like that, so I was just trying to stay in the moment and compete one pitch at a time.”

Elish hasn’t pitched for the Cowgirls since April 24 after a bicep injury, but she has been a mainstay in OSU’s designated player role. In what is her last season of college softball, Elish is still finding ways to advance her team despite her injury.

“It’s just been awesome to still hit, even with the injury,” Elish said. “It was really tough because over like the last month, it’s been like, ‘Maybe I’ll be able to [pitch], maybe I’ll be able to.’ I think we’ve kinda determined that it’s not gonna happen — but maybe it still will, who knows? I’m just trying to do whatever I can. Kelly and Morgan (Day) have been pitching their butts off. I’m just happy I can contribute, and even if it’s just putting the ball in play hard, that’s all I’m trying to do, just make their job a little bit easier.”

The Cowgirls provided an insurance run in the next inning. The seventh started with Karli Petty doubling. Brianna Evans came on as a pinch runner before Kansas transfer Morgyn Wynne provided a hard-hit ground ball that UNT shortstop Cierra Simon struggled to field. The ball pinballed into center, and Evans barreled home.

Then with a two run lead and three outs away from hosting a Super Regional, Kelly Maxwell struck out the side. All of UNT’s seventh-inning batters went down swinging.

It didn’t count for anything on the scoreboard, but the Cowgirls actually started the day with a win. After the national anthem, the Cowgirls have a thing were they don’t move off their baseline until the other team moves off its. North Texas put up a fight as both teams stood there for about five minutes until UNT coach Rodney DeLong called his team to huddle up as the Cowgirls cheered.

“We have a deal where we don’t move until the other team moves,” Gajewski said. “They know that, so they’re trying to do the same thing. I knew that we would win because they had to go pitch. I was laughing. I was pumped. It fires me up because it was respectful, and I think that’s what’s cool.

“… It happened early on in my time here. We just talk about not losing at anything. I don’t care if we’re playing checkers — don’t lose. You’re playing everything to win. Everything that you do is competing. It’s just kind of a fun way to compete as well.”

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