OKLAHOMA CITY – Texas softball coach Mike White said he had one thought dance through his mind watching three Longhorns circle the bases.
Jordyn Whitaiker, Janae Jefferson and Bella Dayton flew around the bases as the Oklahoma State defense looked like anything but itself.
First was the fielding error in right field, then came the spiked throw to second base that ended up rolling to the center field wall. The entire sequence took 17 seconds, and it permanently gave the Longhorns the lead in their 6-5 win against Oklahoma State with a spot in the NCAA championship series on the line.
OSU senior Sydney Pennington said she wasn’t thinking about the game. She wasn’t thinking about the play that cost OSU a chance to play against Oklahoma for a national championship. She wasn’t thinking about how the OSU defense that had a .981 fielding percentage entering the game, the second highest in the NCAA, made two on one play.
“I’m not really thinking about the game too much right now,” Pennington said. “I’m just kind of trying to make some more memories with my friends and just soak all this in one last time. I think we all can go back and see that we could have done things differently you know, but it is what it is and, I’m just glad that we keep setting the bar higher and higher each year for OSU.”
Pennington is one of six super seniors who just took off their OSU softball jersey for the final time.
OSU coach Kenny Gajewski simply wanted to express his thankfulness for the class of players that changed his program. In 2018 when that group of players arrived in Stillwater, it had been eight seasons since OSU last played in the WCWS. The Cowgirls made it to Oklahoma City in three of the four tries the 2018 class had.
“There’s no words,” junior pitcher Kelly Maxwell said. “I mean, these girls I looked up to ever since I came in, they’re true Cowgirls.”
After the game, Maxwell said she was tired. It had been a physically and emotionally depleting week on softball’s grandest stage. She started OSU’s first two games of the WCWS and won both.
Monday began with the ball being placed in the hands of Morgan Day, OSU’s secondary pitcher. Day’s task was to beat the Longhorns, a team they were 4-0 against this season, and send the Cowgirls to the WCWS final.
The Cowgirls, as senior Chelsea Alexander said, came out flat. They were beaten 5-0.
“I don’t know if it was playing Texas, I don’t know, I don’t know what that reason was,” Alexander said.
There were 31 minutes from the final out of the first game to the first pitch of a rematch, this time with both teams facing elimination. OSU looked better under the pressure of the second game and jumped out to a 5-0 lead courtesy of two-run home runs from Kiley Naomi and Karli Petty.
“I’m like ‘feeling pretty good,’” Gajewski said. “Not going to lie. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Now, I know I didn’t for once think the game was over. But I was feeling good. Like we scored five runs. We have Kelly Maxwell. We have a good defense and then it just kind of, I don’t know if we let down or our girls did, I don’t. I don’t know.”
After the second game, the Longhorns circled up by their dugout, soaking in the cheers of their crowd. Kenny Gajewski stood next to home plate.
His arms enveloped each Cowgirl at the end of the handshake line with a hug.
“You look at the five years that we’ve been here and the growth that we’ve seen, it’s just incredible,” Alexander said. “And so to be a part of that and have that opportunity, like I have no words for what that means to me.”