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Regional Preview Notebook: Flushing BYU Game, Seeding and Catching Kilfoyl

‘I think we flushed the BYU game on the bus to be honest.’

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — The Cowgirls’ journey to a fifth straight Women’s College World Series starts Friday.

Oklahoma State hosts a four-team Regional and will open its NCAA Tournament run with a game against Northern Colorado at 4:30 p.m. Friday. OSU held a media availability on Thursday to preview the Regional. Here are three storylines that came from it.

‘Flushed’ the BYU Game

There were big expectations for the Cowgirls entering the Big 12 Tournament, but that hype abruptly ended.

After winning two of three against OU in Norman, the Cowgirls went to OKC and played what had to have been one of their worst games of the season. OSU fell to BYU in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. OSU had five errors in the game and ended up falling 7-2, not scoring until the sixth inning when the Cowgirls were already down 7-0.

“I think we flushed the BYU game on the bus to be honest,” Gajewski said. “It took me a moment, though, I’m not gonna lie. I think I was really bummed. I think I’m more bummed for our fans, the people that were so excited about the weekend that we just came off. …

“When I got on the bus, what I basically said was I’m not gonna get up here and yell and scream. I don’t possibly think we could play any worse — that’s a great sign. So maybe we’ve got that out of us.”

Easily a Top-8 Seed

The Cowgirls went into the conference tournament last week ranked as highly as the No. 2 team in the country. But after an early exit in OKC, there was a conversation brewing about whether OSU would be within the top-eight seeds in the NCAA Tournament, meaning the Cowgirls would host a potential Super Regional.

The Cowgirls ended up clearing that hurdle rather easily when they were named the 5 seed on Selection Sunday, but the conversation spawned because the Cowgirls were outside of that top group in the RPI ranking, which in the past has factored heavily into seeding.

In the end, the top-16 teams in the RPI earned the 16 national seeds, but it was in a different order with OSU taking the biggest jump from RPI ranking to national seed. Duke took the biggest tumble from being third in the RPI to getting the 10 seed.

Team Seed RPI Difference
Texas 1 1 0
Oklahoma 2 2 0
Tennessee 3 8 +5
Florida 4 7 +3
Oklahoma State 5 12 +7
UCLA 6 10 +4
Missouri 7 6 -1
Stanford 8 5 -3
LSU 9 4 -5
Duke 10 3 -7
Georgia 11 9 -2
Arkansas 12 14 +2
Louisiana 13 11 -2
Alabama 14 16 +2
Florida State 15 13 -2
Texas A&M 16 16 0

Gajewksi said seeding has started to use the RPI less and the KPI a bit more, a ranking OSU is sixth in.

Regardless, the committee justly rewarded the Cowgirls for winning series against the top two seeds. And Gajewski credits OSU’s tough scheduling to getting it in. OSU went as far as to schedule a thrown-together game against Florida back in February. In total, OSU has played nine games against nationally seeded teams and gone 5-4 in those games, including going 4-2 against the top two seeds.

“I just know this: you better go play Top 25 teams,” Gajewski said. “That’s what I know has the most weight, and that’s why you see these SEC teams in there because all their teams are in that. I just think it’s very important that we continue to play those type of teams, that we’re allowed to go play those types of teams, especially because we’re losing the other two teams that we’re gonna lose [OU and Texas]. We’ve gotta go find those six games, and we will.

“I just think everybody wishes they knew a little bit better how to get there, and you don’t. But you think you do by playing games, and I think that’s No. 1. I think we’ve done that from Day 1 here.”

Catching Kilfoyl

After four years at Liberty, Caroline Wang is now catching pitches from one of the top 10 players in all of college softball.

Lexi Kilfoyl this week was named one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. She is the Big 12 leader in ERA (1.13), wins (21) and shutouts (six). She was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and ought to be a shoo-in All-American.

Kilfoyl and Wang have worked well together, and Wang has been one of the more solid hitters on OSU’s roster. Wang was named to the All-Big 12 First Team and enters the NCAA Tournament with a .372 batting average and a team-best 17 home runs and 48 RBIs.

Wang played with good players at Liberty — the Flames made the NCAA Tournament last year and did again this year. But Kilfoyl is the elite of the elite. Here is what Wang said about what it is like catching a player of that caliber.

“I feel like now we’re more in touch, especially as the year has gone on,” Wang said. “Now I feel like there’s much less nerves. Sometimes when you’re with someone you don’t know as well, or whatever the case is, in different situations I would get more nervous not knowing exactly what it’s going to be. But especially with Lexi throwing, there’s like no doubt in my mind — I know exactly where this pitch is gonna be. Even if she misses, I know where she’s gonna miss and that type of thing. That definitely helps you be confident.”

Regional Schedule

Friday, May 17
Game 1 – 2 p.m. CT – Michigan vs. Kentucky (ESPN2)
Game 2 – 4:30 p.m. CT – Northern Colorado at No. 6 Oklahoma State (ESPN+)
Saturday, May 18
Game 3 – Noon CT – Winner G1 vs. Winner G2
Game 4 – 2:30 p.m. CT – Loser G1 vs. Loser G2
Game 5 – 5 p.m. CT – Winner G4 vs. Loser G3
Sunday, May 19
Game 6 – Time TBD – Winner G3 vs. Winner G5
Game 7 – Time TBD – Winner G6 vs. Loser G6 (if necessary)

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