Rollercoaster ride

Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press Oklahoma State pitcher Logan Simunek came on in relief of starter Samantha Clakley during Friday's Stillwater Regional game against Tulsa.

Oklahoma State softball coach Kenny Gajewski made the media rounds as the Cowgirls are back in the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2011.

Gajewski had a lot to say regarding his journey from a groundskeeper at Oklahoma to where he is now and how much he owes his opponent – Florida’s Tim Walton – on getting him a job on the Gators’ coaching staff.

He also spoke on a lot of myriad topics from his thoughts on the Cowgirls’ national perception to Logan Simunek’s tattoos.

Simunek, a 5-foot-8 right-handed pitcher, has had a sleeve of flowered tattoos on her left arm for a few years. In seasons past, Gajewski made her wear a sleeve to cover them up, but this season he established a compromise with her.

“I told her that if you are going to pitch without your sleeve and not going to cover up your tattoos, you have got to pitch like a bad B and that is what she has done,’" Gajewski said. “I have always made her cover them, but I said if you want to pitch without that sleeve on your arm, you better pitch like it. I think it gave her what she thinks her identity is.”

A native of Piedmont, Simunek didn’t get many reps early in the year but later in Big 12 Conference play when starters Samantha Show and Samantha Clakley were starting to wear, Simunek came in and saved the Cowgirls several times.

One such outing came in the Cowgirls’ regional contest against Tulsa when Show had to be taken out after the Golden Hurricane took a lead against OSU. Simunek came in and shut the door on Tulsa, doing the same in an extremely stressful situation against Florida State in game three of a Super Regional last week.

On display throughout that time was Simunek’s ink as she has backed up the deal. Now, she is not alone as the Cowgirls took to social media Wednesday to announce they has all gotten tattoos bearing “FTG” meaning “For the Girls,” OSU’s motto this season.

“(Simunek) is the kid I have been talking to you guys about,” Gajewski said. “That is a kid we have a ton of confidence in. She has ice water in her veins. She could give up eight runs and it would be the same look.”

Dancing in the dugout

One of the biggest stories this season has been the transformation of sophomore catcher Raquel Dominguez.

The native of Victorville, California, was in the shadows last season and Gajewski actually didn’t know if she wanted to be a Cowgirl. He had an offseason talk with her and realized they both needed to change. Since then, Dominguez has been a light in the OSU dugout and the team clown.

She has showcased that by dancing behind Gajewski or even chugging full bottles of water while he does his in-game interviews. Gajewski said he thinks it is funny, but in the moment he is clearly locked in on the interview.

The fourth-year coach, who has a speech impediment, said his energy is completely on finishing the interview so he has no idea what Dominguez is doing.

“I know she is going to come back there, But if you are in my skin and you stutter and you are on national TV with a headset, that is fear,” Gajewski said. “I am going to tell you about fear. When those girls say it is tough to go to home plate, I say try putting on a headset when you stutter and go on ESPN and talk, that is fear. I know what your fear is all about. I am so locked in on what I am trying to hear and how to get it out, I don’t even know even know if she would be pounding on my head if I knew what was going on. Once I start to talk, I am so locked in on trying to sound like a normal human that I forget. I love it, though.”

Defending the brand

Not only has Dominguez’ dancing been a talking point in the postseason, but also Samantha Show’s bat flips, Rylee Bayless’ bouncing and overall the energy this Cowgirl softball team possesses.

Gajewski loves it as it shows the team is having fun like it would be in recess and thinks it is the team’s identity. It is a team that the school and the community can rally around and one that inspires fun, he said.

“It is our brand. These girls have created that. I like it. There’s some people who don’t, sorry. I get OSU fans who write in to me and say it is disrespectful. I get it. I’m not here to fight it. I’m just here to tell them sorry they feel like that. The beautiful thing about this is you can tell me how you feel, I will listen and respond to all of them very gently, not trying to get into any wars. If you email me, I will respond. I don’t understand why people don’t think it’s fun, it’s softball. I don’t know what is so important about this, it is softball, it is a game. I think we make this to be too big. This is just a moment in time where we get to make you happy. If you don’t find enjoyment, then don’t watch. I don’t know what else to say. Mike Holder has been blowing my texts up on how much he enjoys watching our team play. That is as traditional of a man that you will ever find. We are entitled to our own opinions.

“We are just having fun, trying to represent OSU in the best way. That won’t change, we aren’t going to change it here. We are also not disrespectful and don’t mean it if you take it like that. I think it is kind of cool all the attention these girls get. They deserve it. They work hard. These girls get a lot of nice things, but they also have a lot of things that are hard in life. It is their opportunity to be who they want to be. I like what we have.”