There is no downtime in college softball, especially for a team on the heels of a Women’s College World Series appearance.
Fifteen days after Oklahoma State’s season ended, the Cowgirls were back on the field for their annual summer camps.
OSU coach Kenny Gajewski knew he was going to miss the first night of camp on Sunday, but was afraid he was going to miss Monday, as well, coming back from a recruiting trip in California.
He arrived in Dallas, Texas, but because of the timing of the return flights to Stillwater would have caused him to miss most of Monday, too. He instead just hopped in a car and arrived home at 5:15 a.m. with camp starting at 9.
It is a priority for him to get back, along with assistant Jeff Cottrill who was also recruiting. The camps have grown each year and with the success the Cowgirls have had has only made campers even more eager to learn from the players and coaches at a resurgent program.
“Now, we are entering into our fifth year and people know the type of camps we run,” Gajewski said. “Our coaches coach and our players coach and a lot of people like that. I think that is one thing I make sure is our players coach and aren’t just here. If I see them on their phone, I’m going to ask them to leave. These kids came to see you as much as they came to see the coaches. The idea is to make the experience as good as we can and I think that is why our camps continue to grow. And I don’t think the success that we have had hurts. It is a great place to come. Who wouldn’t want to come to Stillwater?”
There was more than double the amount of kids at this week’s Elite Summer Prospect Camp for girls from seventh grade up to 12th grade. Not only was Gajewski there with assistants such as Jeff Cottrill, Stacie Pestrak, Wes Ulm, Cody Barham and new pitching coach John Bargfeldt, but also numerous players including Sydney Pennington, Michaela Richbourg and Logan Simunek.
Pennington, a Sand Springs native who is heading into her junior year, said she enjoys the camps and getting to help out girls who look up to her and her teammates.
“I like this time because it’s kind of chill and kind of busy at the same time,” Pennington said. “It gives us something to do and a lot of time with these kids who look up to us. We have really expanded camp. This camp had 43 last year and we have 98 this year. It is really cool to see kids wanting to come play at OSU now and cool to help them out and be here.”
Pennington, a third baseman, said she thinks this year just has a different feeling to it, though, compared to previous years or even when she was going to camps as a high schooler because the success of the 2019 squad.
“There are people here now who ask questions and there are comments that would haven’t been said last year,” Pennington said. “Stuff like, ‘How was the atmosphere at the World Series? What was your favorite part about postseason?’ Stuff like that, which is really cool. That is their ultimate goal is to get to the World Series so for us to have gone there we are really good sources for them.”
The stations involved outfield work with pestrak and former Cowgirl Rylee Bayless, infield drills with Gajewski and Co., including Pennington and first baseman Richbourg.
Pitching drills took place in the Sherman E. Smith Training Center along with numerous other stations. Bargfeldt and Cottrill worked with young pitchers with the assistance of Simunek, a Piedmont righthander going into her senior year.
Graduate assistants Emmie Robertson and Maddi Holcomb were running fielding drills, along with Raquel Dominguez and Taylor Tuck helping with catcher workouts.
Gajewski said it is so great to have current and former Cowgirls there, as well – joining Bayless as a most recent graduate was Taylor Lynch – because it shows the growth of the program since he arrived in the summer of 2015 from Florida.
“I want this to be a place where these girls don’t ever want to leave,” Gajewski said. “I remember the first year, we redid our team room. People asked me, ‘Why do you want to redo our team room? I said I want this to be a place where these girls don’t ever want to leave. We have a new locker room, talking with our administration about changes we want to make. I want these girls to be around here. I want them to share their experiences here. It is why they don’t leave in the summer and stay here and go to school and work out with Coach Wes. They love being here. That is the culture that we have tried to build.”