OKLAHOMA CITY – Madi Sue Montgomery had a gleam in her eye when thinking about the future of the Oklahoma State softball program.
The senior second baseman ended her college career Saturday night in the Women’s College World Series after a loss to Washington, but she knows what she and the senior class helped built is going to carry on.
“I know when Taylor (Lynch) and I chose to come here, we wanted to make a difference,” Montgomery said. “I know the coaching staff we got was just a blessing. They just knew how to lead us this far. I can't wait to see what people like Chyenne Factor and Kiley Naomi can take off from where we left it off. I'm extremely proud of our team.”
Factor, the freshman center fielder from Yukon, made one of the biggest plays against the Huskies. In the bottom of the second inning, Washington’s Amirah Milloy hit a ball to deep straightaway center.
It looked as if it were going to fly into the crowd for a two-run homer but Factor tracked it all the way down and reached her glove over to snag the ball to keep it scoreless.
"I knew I had a chance on it because of how high it was," Factor said. "I actually lost it when I turned around to find the fence, but I found it again. It blended in with the sky."
With plays like what Factor and fellow freshman Naomi have been able to do this season, as well as the continued success of sophomores in Michaela Richbourg, Chelsea Alexander and Sydney Pennington, the Cowgirls hope to make the WCWS again – and not take eight years this time.
Alexander, a left fielder, said she learned a lot from the senior class that brought OSU back among the nation’s elite.
“I've been around some big-time players. Vanessa (Shippy), our seniors this year, all of them, we're all made for big moments,” Alexander said. “Just seeing how they keep their composure, just stay levelheaded, that's what I've learned the most. To perform at this level, you just got to take a deep breath and believe you're meant to be here. I think they've all played with a lot of confidence.”
Alexander a role model for small-town players
One of the best stories on the OSU team is that of Alexander, who played at Class 2A Latta High, and came to Cowgirl summer camps for coach Kenny Gajewski for years.
Summer after summer, Gajewski told her she wasn’t good enough, but she kept trying.
Finally, she persevered and earned a spot. In the WCWS, there she was playing in the outfield at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, making key catches and had a great throw to catcher Mackenzie Thomas against Washington to keep a runner at third.
“It's really neat to see. I grew up playing state games on this field, in this complex,” Alexander said. “We played tournaments here. It's always been like a home field to me. But it changes during this week. Coach G has talked about that. Even though we grew up around here, it's different. And it is.”
Alexander said being from a small school, she understands the journey it took and how someone can make it anywhere no matter where they start.
“It's been really cool to see people from back home reaching out,” Alexander said. “I love to represent my school, my hometown. It's a big deal to me. Just inspiring those little girls to keep going after it. Whatever they want, they can do it if they just work hard.
“It was good to come home and play in front of them. I had a lot of people out. It's unbelievable. Incredible feeling in knowing that people are looking up to you and I can be an example to them.”
Dominguez puts on one last show
While Thomas was gunning down runners at second, her fellow catcher was doing some gunning of her own.
Sophomore Raquel Dominguez put on one last show for the nationwide audience when Holly Rowe interviewed Gajewski during the fourth inning.
Dominguez, who has gone viral by chugging bottles of water and dancing while the interview was going on, decided to do something different for the ESPN audience.
She poked a hole in the side of a water bottle and shotgunned it, celebrating with her teammates afterward, once again, bringing a light mood to a tense game.