Kenny Gajewski looked around at a full crowd, hearing chants from his dugout and roars from baseball next door.
‘This is what college sports is all about,” he thought.
The Oklahoma State softball coach admired how Stillwater showed out for not only his team’s first round game of the NCAA Regional, but also the Cowboy baseball game against Baylor just to the south of them.
The Cowgirls showed up for the fans, and though it was a gritty 3-1 win against Brigham Young, the victory made the path through Cowgirl Stadium this weekend a lot better.
“It is a big deal to get the first win for us,” Gajewski said. “I think with everything that has gone on here and all the people who have put in the work to make this thing happen, I can’t tell you how excited our team is to have the opportunity to play at home and win the first game to get to 40 wins for the first time our time here and in a long time.”
OSU (40-14) was aggressive from the start. After a shaky inning defensively in the first inning, the Cowgirls took it to BYU and started getting some hits off of the Cougars’ Arissa Paulson.
The first score from the Cowgirls was by way of senior second baseman Madi Sue Montgomery, as she hit a single to right field to bring home a diving Rylee Bayless.
The RBI from Montgomery gave the Burleson, Texas, native 200 on her career, something she humbly accepted despite being only the sixth player in Big 12 Conference history to hit the mark.
“RBIs mean somebody has to be on base so my team is doing their job getting on base in front of me,” Montgomery said.
One of two four-year seniors with Taylor Lynch, Montgomery was more excited about the crowd, with a rowdy outfield that included former Cowgirl legend Vanessa Shippy in the audience.
“You have to credit our fans,” Montgomery said. “They are awesome, and loyal and true. Having them out in the outfield yelling at us the whole game and having them behind us, knowing they have our back is really cool to play at home and something we have always wanted to do.”
The Cowgirls weren’t done in the first inning yet as Michaela Richbourg hit into a fielder’s choice to score Samantha Show and put OSU ahead by two.
Show brought OSU’s final run in the next frame as she doubled down the right-field line to bring in pinch runner Shalee Brantley.
After the Cowgirls’ three runs, BYU (29-25) tightened up the defense and really made it tough on OSU the rest of the way, like Gajewski thought the Cougars would.
“I thought Paulson got better as the game went on,” Gajewski said. “We were fighting and she was nibbling some too trying to figure out the strike zone. I thought she was good. They were what I thought. They are tough and well coached, it is postseason and everyone is good. I am happy we are in the good side and we have ourselves a great shot for tomorrow.”
Even though it was tense as the game went on, especially when BYU brought it to within two after Montgomery and Richbourg miscommunicated on a fly ball and collided, Show said the team was still pretty loose out there.
For OSU to make it to the next step and a Super Regional, Show said the team can’t afford to be tense.
“You are playing your best when you are having fun and with your friends,” Show said. “You are just a little kid out there. That was my big thing this year and going out and having fun like you are 8 years old at recess. If you get too tight and focused about what you are doing, your body will not perform well.”
BYU associate head coach Pete Meredith said he was proud of how his team played against the No. 13 Cowgirls and hopes to take that momentum into an elimination game against Arkansas on Friday.
“We basically held our own for the last five innings of the ballgame,” Meredith said. “We had to get in sync but once we settled down, we got back in the ballgame. Proud of our team and how we played.”
Cougar catcher Libby Sugg, who went 2 for 2 against the Cowgirls, said she will be playing like it is her last game.
“I have to go all out,” Sugg said. “This is it for me. This could be my last weekend and I don’t want it to be so I am going to do everything I can to keep playing and keep winning.”
Meanwhile, the Cowgirls will play Tulsa, a team that has long been a thorn in Gajewski’s side. OSU is the most recent winner in the series, though, and Gajewski hopes his team can play as tough as it did Thursday in the noon game Friday.
“I see a good team that we have to beat and we have struggled with. All I know is the last time we played, we won 6-0,” Gajewski said. “I have a lot of respect for John and his staff. I expect it to be a really good softball game and a crazy crowd and I cannot wait to wake up and play.”