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Caroline Wang shatters expectations for Oklahoma State softball

Apr. 1—Caroline Wang's first-inning home run in Saturday's win over No. 2 Texas was a no-doubter. Her instant success at Oklahoma State wasn't.

The senior catcher transferred to Oklahoma State this past summer after playing four years at Liberty, where she was named back-to-back Atlantic Sun Player of the Year. Despite the accolades, Wang was fresh off rotator cuff surgery and "didn't feel great" in her final season there.

That feeling lingered into practices and games in her initial time in Stillwater during fall ball, she said.

"I definitely struggled in the fall," Wang said. "I had been with the same ace pitcher for four years — and she was my best friend — so it was very intuitive. I got here and had six pitchers that I knew nothing about."

Still, OSU head coach Kenny Gajewski was confident in Wang's ability to translate her skills to a higher level of competition.

"The good thing about Caroline, where she's from, they play a really good schedule," Gajewski said. "(Liberty coach Dot Richardson) always tries to get her team ready because you know that in your conference you can't match up to what you're going to see in the regionals and supers."

Gajewski rarely signs non power-five transfers, but he says that Wang proved to be an exception.

"When we look at transfers, the first thing we do is separate Power Five from mid-major teams, and it turns us off on a lot of kids because if they don't put up good numbers against Power Five, that's who we play, so you have to put those type of numbers up for us to go after you," Gajewski said.

But that confidence in Wang, at the time, was more about her intelligence and experience and less about her physical ability. Gajewski has since changed that mindset.

"I don't feel like she was catching in the fall as good as what she is now," Gajewski said. "Whatever she's doing, I'd like her to keep it up."

Wang has thrown out nine runners on the bases this season, the third most in the Big 12. Her sense of urgency and phenomenal feel for the game have led to the perhaps surprising in-game ability.

"It's obviously been very, very good because people are having a hard time running on her, so I'm very happy with what she's done, how she's performed, how she's led," Gajewski said. "She's doing some amazing things."

While her catching ability has been a bit of a surprise, her ability with her bat is certainly not surprising. Wang leads the Cowgirls in hits (39), doubles (8), home runs (11), total bases (80) and slugging percentage (.755).

Her three-run home run in the first inning of that game on Saturday was the game-winner and the only hit for OSU in front of a record crowd of 1,757.

"I'm not sure unless you've been in this environment that you can really imagine it," Wang said. "It's a lot of fun, and I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this."

The first time she experienced an energetic Cowgirl Stadium was as a spectator.

Wang decided to enter the transfer portal in late May of 2023 because Liberty didn't have a speech pathology program. The next day, she received a call from Gajewski.

"I was very open," Wang said. "I didn't know what to expect when I went into the portal, so when OSU calls you, you'd be silly to not at least give them a shot."

Two days later, she was on a plane to Stillwater.

"I didn't know anything about the program, and everyone welcomed me with open arms," she said. "(Assistant coach Vanessa Shippy-Fletcher) let me hold her baby all day long on the tour, and I remember telling my mom, 'I'm just positive that Coach G told everyone to be nice to me.'"

Wang attended OSU's second Super Regional game against Oregon on May 26, 2023. The Cowgirls scored a Super Regional program record run total, pitched a shutout and advanced to a fourth-consecutive Women's College World Series.

"It was just an awesome environment, something I've never played in," Wang said. "When I left, I was pretty sure this is where I was going to be."

Last year proved to be a big year for Wang on and off the field. While finding a new home in the softball world, Wang also found her husband. She married Matthew Wang, and he can be seen at OSU's home games as well as the occasional road trip with the team — always supporting his wife.

Now, Wang has the chance to help lead OSU to a fifth-consecutive Women's College World Series and leave a lasting impression on the program she now calls home.