'It’s just expected': Cowgirls run-rule Mississippi St. to return to NCAA Super Regionals
STILLWATER — Sydney Pennington remembers how exciting it was when the Oklahoma State softball team won its regional two years ago.
Thrill jolted through the team that day in 2019.
Even after her record-setting home run on Sunday, Pennington noticed a different feeling for No. 5 overall seed OSU following a 10-2 run-rule victory over Mississippi State in the Stillwater Regional final at Cowgirl Stadium.
“Now, it’s just expected,” said Pennington, who became the all-time home run leader in Cowgirl history with her third-inning solo shot. “I was thinking in the last inning, it’s crazy how much the dynamic here has changed, and the mentality, because I remember how excited and crazy we were a couple years ago.
“It’s cool to see that change over time. I’m really proud of everybody. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
The victory on Sunday sent OSU to the super regional round for the second time in three years.
The Cowgirls will face Big 12 foe Texas yet again, after the Longhorns weathered a lengthy rain delay to beat Oregon 1-0 after 1 a.m. CT Monday in the Austin Regional final. OSU is 4-0 against Texas this season.
After falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Oklahoma State got its offense going in the second inning. Karli Petty singled and Reagan Wright homered to center field for a 2-1 Cowgirl lead.
That signaled to OSU coach Kenny Gajewski that the offensive firepower his team has been playing with over the last several weeks was ready to ignite.
“It’s really cool for me and our staff to watch us hit the way we’ve hit over the last eight, nine weeks now,” Gajewski said. “This team, something happened where they were tired of just being average. When they were tired of that, it’s just really changed.
“We’re starting to be the offensive force that I thought this team could be.”
The Cowgirls scored two more runs in the second inning, then Pennington came through with her record-setting home run in the third. It was the 36th home run of Pennington’s career, passing Tiffany Mikkelson for the most in Cowgirl history.
“The last couple weeks, I’ve just been focusing on taking quality at-bats and not do too much, and I think that’s helped me a lot,” Pennington said. “I knew today I could break that record, but nothing has changed in my mind in the box. I’ve tried to stay patient and let it work out on its own.
“When I hit it, I thought it was gonna go over, but I wasn’t sure. It was kind of a high pitch. It was awesome. I couldn’t stop smiling after that. It was fun. It was a good moment.”
In the top of the fourth inning, OSU loaded the bases for one of its hottest hitters, Alysen Febrey, who went 6-for-8 in the regional. She drew a walk to force in a run, and Hayley Busby followed with a grand slam to cap off the scoring.
OSU starting pitcher Carrie Eberle allowed two runs on six hits with eight strikeouts to improve to 22-3 on the season.
The Cowgirls are in pursuit of their ninth Women’s College World Series appearance and will be making their third super regional trip. OSU won the super regional in Stillwater in 2011 and won at Florida State in 2019.
“I’m very, very proud of this program,” said Gajewski, who is in his sixth season. “Another great moment in our time here, continuing to build on what the great players of the past have done.”
Stillwater Super Regional
No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Texas
Game 1: 4 p.m. Friday (ESPN2)
Game 2: 3 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)
Game 3: 5 p.m. Sunday (ESPNU, if necessary)