OSU softball: Coach Kenny Gajewski's tough decision pays off as Cowgirls advance to super-regional
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State softball coach Kenny Gajewski turned his head downward, the bill of his cap hiding his eyes that were turning red and filling with tears.
Not tears of joy, following his team’s 2-1 win over Tulsa on Saturday evening at Cowgirl Stadium that secured OSU’s first NCAA regional championship since 2011, though he shed a few happy tears for that as well.
The tears that came out during his postgame press conference were more a release of pent up emotion from a conflict between his coaching brain and his player-loving heart.
Gajewski had to make a painful decision on Saturday to leave Taylor Lynch’s name off the lineup card. His heart hurt, but his head knew it was the right choice.
In Lynch’s place, he inserted Sydney Springfield, a junior transfer from LSU who has been a clutch player in pinch-hitting roles.
In the fourth inning, with a runner on second in a tie game, Springfield singled to center
center field, driving in Kiley Naomi with the decisive run to send OSU to the Super-Regional round.
“It’s tough when you care about kids. I’ve lost sleep,” Gajewski said through the tears. “I’m a loyal guy. Sometimes my loyalty goes a little too far. I’ve been wanting to play (Springfield) more and I’ve been wanting Taylor to get going, and it’s hard to work through all that.”
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Lynch is a senior and a foundational piece of what Gajewski has built in his four years at OSU. Her toughness, playing the entire season with a torn ACL, has been a source of inspiration for the team. Her production has waned as the season wore on, and Gajewski had to make the decision that would be best for his team on Saturday.
“I didn’t know what I was gonna do as I was driving here today,” Gajewski said. “My biggest strength at times is my heart. My biggest weakness at times is my heart.
“I’m proud of (Lynch) the way she handled this. And I’m proud of Sydney the way she’s continued to come in when she gets her chances and has good at-bats and come through.”
A senior who has played her whole career alongside Lynch, second baseman Madi Sue Mongtomery, drove in OSU’s first run and caught the pop fly for the last out, a fitting way to close the regional final.
“I was just like, look this ball in and catch it please,” Montgomery said of the final out. “It was a really cool moment, because I knew when I caught that, we could celebrate.”
Pitcher Samantha Show allowed a run on four hits with a strikeout and no walks for her 19th win of the season.
OSU, the overall No. 13 seed, improved to 42-14 overall and will learn its regional opponent on Sunday. If fourth-seeded Florida State wins its regional, OSU will travel to Tallahassee, Florida for the super-regional. With any other outcome at Florida State, OSU will host the super-regional.
OKLAHOMA STATE 2, TULSA 1
Tulsa 100 000 0 — 1 4 1
Oklahoma St. 001 100 x — 2 6 1
Chenise Delce and Celyna Shaw, Rylie Spell. Samantha Show, and Mackenzie Thomas. W—Show (19-7). L—Delce (15-6). HR—None.
Friday’s Late Game
TULSA 6, BYU 4
BYU 100 012 0 — 4 12 1
Tulsa 200 301 x — 6 9 1
Paulson, Moffat (5) and Sugg. Scott and Spell. W—Scott (9-6). L—Paulson (15-12). HR—None.