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'She’s fearless': Why Carrie Eberle is the key to Oklahoma State's NCAA softball dreams

Scott Wright

STILLWATER — Pitcher Carrie Eberle’s thoughts are simple when she considers what’s ahead for her Oklahoma State softball team as the No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament beginning on Friday.

“This is what I came here to have the opportunity to do,” Eberle said.

When she entered the transfer portal after the 2019 season at Virginia Tech, Eberle had only a few specific things she was looking for in her next destination.

A school that offered her particular biology degree program.

A college-town feel.

A top-10 softball program capable of going to the Women's College World Series.

She found all three at OSU, having enjoyed the first two over the past two years. Now she’s ready to cash in on the third with a postseason run that she hopes will end at the WCWS — and she’s perhaps the biggest key to making it happen.

Oklahoma State's Sydney Pennington (21) and Carrie Eberle (25) celebrate an out against Oklahoma during the Big 12 Softball championship game last weekend at Hall of Fame Stadium.

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OSU is the top seed in the Stillwater Regional, which begins at 1 p.m. Friday when the Cowgirls take on Campbell, streaming live on ESPN+. Mississippi State vs. Boston will follow at 3:30 p.m.

“Playing in front of your home crowd is such an advantage, and it’s going to be full capacity now,” Eberle said. “We put ourselves in a good position. It’s so exciting.”

Named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year for her performance this season, Eberle has a 21-3 record and 1.83 earned-run average with 136 strikeouts in 152 ⅔ innings pitched. 

But just as important as her impressive stat line is the attitude she brings to the circle every game, which carries over to her teammates.

“Everything she does is at a really high level,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “We get caught up in her numbers and big wins and all the other stuff she’s accomplished up to this point, but the impact she has on our team and our pitching staff is big. She shoulders a huge load here.

“Never complains, pitches banged up. She’s fearless.”

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Eberle’s presence has allowed sophomore left-hander Kelly Maxwell to develop her game without being asked to handle the pitching load that an ace must take on. 

And that’s one reason why Gajewski, when he spoke to the media on Thursday, didn’t know yet which of his pitchers would throw the regional opener on Friday. He feels comfortable putting either of them out there.

But the Cowgirls won’t get through the regional without heavy contributions from Eberle, who relishes the pressure moments the postseason brings.

“For me, it’s just having the opportunity to be the leader on the field and be the one that’s putting our team in the best position possible to win,” Eberle said. “Just having that control, as a very competitive person, being the one on the field that has the ball in their hand all the time is what I enjoy about it.”

When your leader has that attitude, it can only benefit your team.

“Carrie’s just a leader in so many ways,” Gajewski said. “I’m just really thankful that she chose us, and that she came here with open arms and an open heart.”