On the wall directly below a scoreboard full of zeros, Oklahoma State softball will post a new number – 2021.
The Cowgirls beat Texas, 2-0, at Cowgirl Stadium on Sunday.. It was the rubber match of the three-game Super Regional series, and implications were sky high.
With the win, OSU earned a place in Oklahoma City at the Women’s College World Series.
The Cowgirls will appear at the WCWS for the ninth time in program history. The ’21 team will be remembered in Cowgirl Stadium forever when “2021” joins the list of years printed on the wall in right field recognizing past teams which have accomplished that feat.
Above that list, the scoreboard was a telling display of how OSU earned the right to battle seven other teams for a national title.
Seven zero’s dotted the board in the top half of each inning. Senior pitcher Carrie Eberle was not alone in holding Texas scoreless, as OSU used excellent, error free defense to get the job done. Eberle was the driving force, however, pitching a complete game and surrendering just four hits.
“The girls love to play behind her,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “She is a true ace in every sense of the word. If this game would have gone on for 15 innings, she would not have let the ball up. She was going to lose this game if she had to. That’s what aces do.”
Eberle pitched a shutout in her last game in Cowgirl Stadium. Her performance ensured she will pitch again on the biggest stage.
“It’s really indescribable,” Eberle said. “To have that experience with this team, it’s going to be amazing. This is what I came here to do. This has been our goal all year long.”
If Eberle (25-3), was a predictable star, the most important at-bat of the game came from a player with less accolades — freshman Avery Hobson.
After the first two OSU batters in the bottom of the fifth inning were hit by pitches from Texas pitcher, sophomore Shea O’Leary, and then advanced a base each on a sacrifice bunt, Hobson was due to bat.
Gajewski was leaning toward pinch hitting for his slap-style lefty hitting freshman, but did not know exactly what he wanted to do. He called a timeout and asked Hobson a question.
“What can you do here?”
“I can slap,” she said.
Hobson looked toward her teammates on base and told them, “I’m going to make this happen.”
Gajewski left Hobson to bat, and she did exactly that. She slapped a pitch through the middle of the infield and batted in the first run of the game.
“When that happened,” Gajewski said. “I can’t tell you as a coach, the rush that goes through your body for kids like that.
Hobson has split playing time this season, but recorded her 15th hit of the season in her biggest at-bat of the year.
“We have a lot of kids on this team that think she ought to play more,” Gajewski said. “Sometimes you need to listen to your kids.”
The Cowgirls scored again on a bunt single from senior outfielder Chelsea Alexander that scored Karli Petty, and OSU took a lead it would not surrender.
Eberle closed out the game and as Alexander caught the fly ball to left for the final out of the game, emotions — and the OSU fans in the outfield — started running.
“It’s all about finding a way to win in these game threes,” Eberle said. “That’s what we did. Played some solid ball, got a big hit from Avery when it mattered and had the best defense behind me you could ask for today. It all just came together for us.”
The Cowgirls celebration started in the middle of the infield, but moved to the outfield where fans stormed the field in celebration.
“It’s incredible,” Gajewski said. “I don’t want to start reflecting yet, that’s not a place you want to be. It means you’re satisfied. But this team, and Texas, all these teams that have got this far, these kids have poured it all out.”