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Wang, Poullard Stepping Up from Mid-Major Level to Help Cowgirls in 2024

‘You have to put those types of numbers up for us to go after you, and both Caroline and Jil have done that.’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — Kenny Gajewski has been dominant in the transfer portal, but most of the players he’s grabbed from it over recent seasons have come from other major programs. That won’t necessarily be the case in 2024.

Whether it was Samantha Show transferring in from Texas A&M, Miranda Elish coming by way of Texas or Rachel Becker transferring in from Purdue, all of those players were familiar with the grind of Power Five softball. Two of Gajewski’s key newbies on his 2024 roster don’t have that experience.

Utility player Jilyen Poullard transferred in from McNeese, where she was a two-time All-Southland Selection. She hit .367 in her final full season with McNeese, a team-best. She also led her team in home runs (seven), triples (four), RBIs (45) and walks drawn (37). She played just nine games with McNeese last season before leaving the program, hitting .333.

Gajewski also went out and got catcher Caroline Wang (formerly Caroline Hudson) from Liberty. Wang hit .318 in 195 at-bats last season, leading the Flames in hits (62), RBIs (51), home runs (15) and doubles (17). She was the ASUN Player of the Year in 2022 and 2023.

Although Poullard and Wang didn’t regularly play against Power Five competition, Gajewski said their outings against that level of competition were enough for him to go after them.

“When we look at numbers, when we look at transfers, the first thing we do is separate Power Five teams against mid-major teams,” Gajewski said. “It’s the first thing that we do, and it turns us off on a lot of kids because if they don’t put up good numbers against Power Five, that’s who we play. We play a lot of Power Five teams, and we play mostly elite-level mid-major teams, especially during the midweek here. They’re Regional teams, or historically have been. You have to put those types of numbers up for us to go after you, and both Caroline and Jil have done that.”

So, how did Poullard and Wang stack up to Power Five competition at their previous schools?

Starting with Wang because she played more in the 2023 season: She played in 17 games against Power Five competition in 2023. And it was tough Power Five competition at that with games against Oklahoma, Washington, UCLA, Alabama and others. In those games, Wang hit .245 with nine RBIs, four doubles, two home runs and six drawn walks.

In 2022, she hit .239 in 26 games against Power Five competition, scoring 16 runs to go with 10 RBIs, four doubles, two triples and four home runs.

Gajewski said Monday that Wang will share time behind the plate with junior Audrey Schneidmiller, who Gajewski said has “really, really improved.” He also added that if Wang catches fire at the plate she could be in line to play some DP.

“I’d say just the pace of it, maybe, and the expectations [are what has been different about the Power Five level so far],” Wang said. “There’s more competition here, for sure. Everybody wants your spot, which they should. That’s how it should be. But it’s just a little more, I guess, fast-paced in that way. And not to say there’s no room for mistakes because, I mean, in the sport we play there’s mistakes all the time, but you’re expected to get better and do better daily.”

Of the nine games Poullard played in 2023, only two were against Power Five competition: Washington and Kentucky. In those games, Poullard went 2-for-5 (.400) with a home run and an RBI. Poullard played nine games against Power Five schools in 2022, where she hit .360 and six RBIs, a double and a home run.

Gajewski said Poullard struggled some in the fall but has performed well as of late in team scrimmages.

“Jilyen has crazy power,” Gajewski said. “It’s different when it comes out of her bat.”

One of Poullard’s new teammates is also high on what she brings on and off the diamond.

“Every time she walks in the locker room, she always has the biggest smile on her face,” pitcher Lexi Kilfoyl said. “She’s playing a new role this year. She’s actually going to be in the outfield, but she’s always been in the infield. Jil is just, she’s such an athlete and such a hard worker. I think everyone’s gonna lover her to death. She just has so much excitement to her, and her personality is hilarious. I think people are gonna love her.”

The Cowgirls will rely on a lot of new faces in 2023. Gone are longstanding staples of OSU’s lineup like Kiley Naomi and Chyenne Factor. So expect these newcomers playing at a new level to impact the Cowgirls’ season in 2024.

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