The 2023 softball season has come to a close for the Oklahoma State Cowgirls, with a 3-1 loss to the Tennessee Lady Vols on Sunday night.
With the loss, Oklahoma State’s record falls to 47-16 on the year and ends their season just short of another chance at a national championship.
Meanwhile, the win brings Tennessee’s record to 51-9 on the year and advances them to the national semifinals where they will face the Florida State Seminoles.
Here’s a few thoughts on the loss and what it means going forward.
Kelly Maxwell Gets the Start
Despite her up-and-down play over the last month or so, Kenny Gajewski decided to go with Kelly Maxwell with the season on the line. Unfortunately, she gave up two runs on three hits in 2.1 IP and OSU opted to go with Lexi Kilfoyl from that point on.
Through the postseason, Kilfoyl has been the best arm at OSU’s disposal and that continued to be the case on Sunday. She went unhit in her 3.2 IP, but allowed three of Oklahoma State’s five walks, and each of them was costly. Giving Tennessee extra chances is not advised, considering how well they score runs on their own.
Whether it confidence, health, or some other unknown factor, Kelly Maxwell hasn’t had the consistency that we’ve gotten used to seeing over the last several seasons. Down the stretch, when her team needed the dominance we saw in the WCWS last year, it just wasn’t there.
Costly Mistakes Stack Up for Cowgirls
When a team like Tennessee is in the other dugout, one or two mistakes can be the difference in a ball game, and tonight, Oklahoma State just made too many mistakes.
Three errors were committed in the game, and all three of them were on Oklahoma State’s side of the score card. A fielding error in the first inning put an extra base runner on for Tennessee, but went unpunished as the Vols weren’t able to do anything with it.
However, the remaining errors were extremely costly, as a fielding error put Zaida Puni on base in the fifth, and a throwing error later in the inning brought Puni home to make the score 3-0, Vols.
Another mistake that proved costly was a base running error on Micaela Wark. As she rounded third, Kenny Gajewski gave her the sign to hold, but she continued anyways. Wark was tagged out at home plate, and it ended an inning with runners in scoring position.
Promising Season Fizzles Out Too Soon
Through the first 42 games of the 2023 season Oklahoma State had a 39-3 record, their best start in program history. The Pokes also held the No. 2 ranking in the country, its highest ever, and looked very much like Oklahoma’s best competition to win this year’s national championship.
Then the Cowgirls lost 11 of 13 games to finish the regular season, lost to Kansas in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, and went 1-2 in the Women’s College World Series. After a promising run through regionals and super regionals, it appeared that OSU had found a way to turn things around, and perhaps they did. However, the tough draws of Florida State and Tennessee proved too much to overcome for the Pokes.
With the loss, Oklahoma State will send five seniors out of the program after falling just short of the national semifinals. Chyenne Factor, Kiley Naomi, Rachel Becker, Taylor Tuck, and Morgyn Wynne all run out of eligibility after playing significant roles in the best stretch of Oklahoma State softball in school history.