The Women’s College World Series, which begins Thursday, is nothing new to Stillwater High softball coach Karie Linsenmeyer.
She played it in once – 27 years ago – but her journey to the pinnacle of college softball was atypical. In fact, it might be one of a kind.
Linsenmeyer grew up in Hesperia, California, northeast of the Los Angeles area. After high school, she attended Cal Poly Pomona, which was about 50 miles from her hometown.
She played for two coaches who were regarded as two of the best in the country. Carol Spanks was a gold medalist as the coach of the U.S. national team in 1987 at the Pan American games. Shirley Topley also accomplished the same feat four years later before being a named an assistant coach on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team.
Linsenmeyer played there for two years until a bombshell was dropped on the program.
“After my second year, they dropped the program,” Linsenmeyer said. “The rest of the school was Div. II, so they just dropped softball. Most of us got recruited again, basically. Both of the coaches there are in the softball hall of fame. They were really good. One of them was on the first USA softball Olympic staff, as well.”
According to an article in The Poly Post, the Cal Poly Pomona student newspaper, the softball program would have had to become an independent or drop down to Division II. The school opted to cut the program, and has never brought it back.
This left Linsenmeyer looking for a new home. Not knowing what was next was difficult, but Oklahoma State coach Sandy Fischer, who stepped down in 2001 after 23 years as the program’s head coach, made it hard for Linsenmeyer to resist.
The Cowgirls advanced to the WCWS in 1993, which was Linsenmeyer’s sophomore season. Fresh off their third WCWS appearance in five years, the Cowgirls added a player from California.
“It was a whirlwind, because they dropped the program in July or the end of June,” Linsenmeyer said. “I had no clue it was happening. I had a good sophomore year, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about where I am going to go and what I am going to do. Because I had a good year, I had some opportunities and more offers than I even imagined.
“I chose Oklahoma State for a couple of reasons. Number one, I knew they were going to be good. After playing for two years and knowing the lay of the land, I knew they were going to be good. Number two, at the time, Sandy Fischer was the coach and she wasn’t going to let me say no. It turned out to be a good decision.”
In her first season at OSU, Linsenmeyer helped the Cowgirls to a second-straight WCWS appearance. They went 3-2 in OKC.
“It was the highlight of my life,” Linsenmeyer said. “It definitely was an awesome experience. I came from California and just jumped into a really good team and making it there, but not really understanding what the whole thing was about. Playing there with Oklahoma crowds was tremendous.”
Linsenmeyer has remained in Oklahoma ever since. She helped turn the SHS softball program around before going to Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa for 13 years and eventually returning to coach the Lady Pioneers beginning in 2014.
In seven years, she has coached the Lady Pioneers to several state tournaments and has also coached several NCAA Div. I players, including OSU junior Taylor Tuck. Linsenmeyer said she still has a close relationship with Tuck, and even sends her text messages before and after games.
Linsenmeyer has also developed a relationship with OSU senior Sydney Pennington. She said Pennington works with young players, such as Linsenmeyer’s daughter, Kaylee, so they’ve developed a friendship.
She even recalls coaching against Pennington when she played for Sand Springs.
“It was really hard to get her out,” Linsenmeyer said. “We also played against (Chyenne) Factor at Yukon, and probably against (Karli) Petty at Southmoore.”
Linsenmeyer said she also knows a few Cowgirls well, as they’ve made themselves a part of the community. That’s something she wanted to happen when she came back to coach at the high school level, and she’s happy OSU coach Kenny Gajewski has instilled that into his players.
“Coach Gajewski has done a a tremendous job,” Linsenmeyer said. “He’s a great promoter of the game. He definitely treats all of the alumni really well. You feel like it’s home again, and there was a time when it didn’t really feel that way and I don’t know why. I think anybody who has played at OSU, any one of us would feel comfortable giving him a call or walking through the doors and feeling at home. I think that’s an important aspect, and it obviously comes through with the way his players enjoy playing for him.
“The more excited our youth in Stillwater get about softball, the better chance I have of being successful. We just need people to fall in love with the sport. When the girls are loved the way they are by the young girls in this community, it makes my job easy.”
Like many Cowgirl softball alumnae, Linsenmeyer was watching Sunday’s NCAA Super Regional final. She wasn’t in Stillwater, but she watched it alongside her daughter’s travel ball team and parents in Chesterfield, Missouri.
“We were counting down the outs at the end,” Linsenmeyer said. “It was exciting to watch them and watch them do well.”
She’s excited for the Cowgirls to return to the WCWS for just the fourth time since her trip 27 years ago. And, she’ll be down there to watch the Cowgirls play Georgia on the biggest stage.
“We will be there on Thursday,” Linsenmeyer said. “My husband surprised us with tickets. I don’t care much about the first game and we’ll probably root for whoever they’re playing against. My son, Kameron, he loves it, too, and he was at some of the games last weekend.”