OKLAHOMA CITY – A routine groundball turned double play ended the Oklahoma State softball season early Sunday morning at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex.
Florida State third baseman Sydney Sherrill, a Southmoore High product, fielded the grounder hit by OSU’s Kiley Naomi and threw toward the second baseman to start the double play. It – and the Cowgirls’ season – ended just seconds later.
FSU beat OSU, 4-2, avenging the 2019 NCAA Super Regional where the Cowgirls went into Tallahassee, Florida, and left winners headed for the College World Series. This year, FSU sent the Cowgirls headed home from the WCWS with a 1-2 record at the tournament – matching their record from the 2019 College World Series.
“Unfortunately, in these type of games, you just can't have (errors),” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “A little disappointing there, but we also make a ton of plays and I'll hang our hats on those. And I'll have to find a better way to clean us up some. We'll get there.”
Kelly Maxwell got the start in the circle for OSU, and she was on fire early. Maxwell struck out five batters through two innings, keeping the game scoreless.
However, in the third inning, she struggled before being taken out in favor of Logan Simunek. Maxwell gave up a leadoff home run that flew well beyond the corner of the left field wall.
Maxwell followed by giving up a full count walk and an RBI double to left-center field. OSU center fielder Chyenne Factor scooped up the ball and threw it toward right field – with the ball spraying water from the hours of rain that delayed the evening session by more than two hours – allowing Kaley Mudge to take third base. Sherrill came up and hit an RBI groundout.
Simunek ended the threat by retiring the two batters she faced, and pitched the next four innings, allowing only one hit and one run to go along with one walk and three strikeouts. Carrie Eberle finished the final 2/3 of an inning, retiring both batters in her final game as a Cowgirl.
“Well, she seems to pitch her best in the biggest games,” Gajewski said of Simunek. “The moment is never too big. When I gave her the ball, I just said, ‘Hey, I just need you to keep us here.’ And she just had the same look that she always has, just calm.
"She just executed pitch after pitch. … She calmed the whole game down, calmed the team down, and gave our offense a chance. We just weren't clean and didn't play our best.”
On the flip side, Florida State’s Kathryn Sandercock pitched a complete game. She allowed just five hits and two runs with two walks and eight strikeouts in the win. She improved to 26-3 on the season.
“Sandercock was really good,” Gajewski said. “She was really, really good.”
OSU answered back with a run of its own in the bottom half of the third inning. Avery Hobson led off with a single before Chelsea Alexander moved her to second base with a sacrifice bunt. Naomi came up next and bunted, reaching first on a throwing error by Sandercock. Hobson scored on the play, trimming the lead to two runs.
In the fifth inning, OSU got another run back, but committed a costly mistake. Alexander bunted and reached on a throwing error and stole second. Naomi was walked before Factor hit an RBI single into right field.
Alexander scored from second and Naomi took third as the FSU right fielder bobbled the ball. After the throw came to the infield between third base and home plate, Naomi ran toward home but was easily tagged out for the second out of the inning.
Instead of runners on the corners and one out, OSU had Factor at first with two outs. Alysen Febrey struck out for the third time in the game to end the inning and the Cowgirls’ threat.
Oklahoma State's third and fourth errors of the game allowed the last run to score. Mudge reached first on a fielding error by OSU third baseman Sydney Pennington before advancing to second on a deep flyball to the left field corner.
While Mudge attempted to steal third, OSU catcher Reagan Wright threw an errant throw into left, allowing Mudge to score. It gave the Seminoles a 4-2 advantage.
“I don't know why we've had some breakdowns,” Gajewski said. “They come in bunches for us. It's kind of been a thing that we fought all year, and I wear that. I'm the defensive coach and I have to figure out a way to get us just cleaner. We're too good to make four errors in any game.”
In the seventh inning, Avery Hobson led off with an infield single to give OSU a baserunner. Alexander struck out before Naomi’s grounder that ended the contest and season.
OSU ended its season with a 48-12 season, making back-to-back trips to the WCWS for just the third time in program history.