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Oklahoma State softball pitchers nearly perfect in NCAA opener vs. Northern Colorado

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State’s opening game in the NCAA softball tournament was a breeze, but it was close to being historic.

Cowgirl pitchers Lexi Kilfoyl and Ivy Rosenberry came one out away from combining on the first perfect game in OSU postseason history, and leadoff hitter Jilyen Poullard came inches shy of a two-home run game.

But instead, the Pokes had to settle for a dominant 6-0 victory over Northern Colorado (27-25) in the first round of the Stillwater Regional on Friday night at Cowgirl Stadium.

OSU (45-10), the No. 5 national seed and the top seed in the regional, got big hits from young players and reminded everyone why they’ve been regarded as one of the best defensive teams in the country.

The victory sends OSU to a showdown with Kentucky in the winner’s bracket final, set for noon Saturday at Cowgirl Stadium.

Here are three takeaways from the OSU victory:

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Oklahoma State infielder Rosie Davis (26) slides to third against Northern Colorado in the sixth inning of a softball game in the first round of the Stillwater Regional of the NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Okla., Friday, May 17, 2024. Oklahoma State won 6-0.
Oklahoma State infielder Rosie Davis (26) slides to third against Northern Colorado in the sixth inning of a softball game in the first round of the Stillwater Regional of the NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Okla., Friday, May 17, 2024. Oklahoma State won 6-0.

OSU pitchers flirt with perfection

Kilfoyl, a super-senior, said Thursday she feels extra zip on her pitches when she’s had a couple extra days off, which she was given early in the week.

Not only were her pitches sharp, she was putting them where she wanted them, and that led to her retiring all 15 batters she faced in her five innings.

She earned the win to improve to 22-3 on the year, and Rosenberry worked the final two innings for her third save of the season.

Gajewski wanted to limit Kilfoyl’s usage Friday, regardless, so he was satisfied with getting five perfect innings out of her with just 62 pitches.

“The plan was to get her two (innings) and score about nine or 10 runs and get her out,” Gajewski joked. “We didn’t want to go more than five, to be honest. Her pitch count was low.

“She’ll be able to bounce back the next two days just fine and do what she needs to do. I feel like we’ve always done a good job here of protecting our kids and spreading the innings and making sure these horses are fresh at the end.”

Kilfoyl had just one strikeout, but she was clearly dialed in for her first appearance since May 4.

“I felt pretty good today,” Kilfoyl said. “Kudos to our defense. I had maybe one strikeout, so our defense was the core of everything today.”

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Oklahoma State's Ivy Rosenberry (41) celebrates after beating Northern Colorado in a softball game during the first round of the Stillwater Regional of the NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Okla., Friday, May 17, 2024. Oklahoma State won 6-0.
Oklahoma State's Ivy Rosenberry (41) celebrates after beating Northern Colorado in a softball game during the first round of the Stillwater Regional of the NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Okla., Friday, May 17, 2024. Oklahoma State won 6-0.

OSU flashes the glove

The last time OSU was on the field, it committed five errors in an upset loss to BYU in the Big 12 Tournament, but the glove issues were solved Friday.

Though Kilfoyl and Rosenberry were in control all day, they weren’t racking up strikeouts.

Northern Colorado struck out just twice, forcing OSU to make 19 outs in the field, and 15 of those were groundouts.

“Karli (Godwin) kind of bailed them out in the first inning,” Gajewski said, referencing two short-hop catches made on low throws by Godwin at first base in the first inning. “That could be a moment where you go, ‘Oh my god, here we go again.’ But Karli picked them up and then we really got dialed in.

“This game is a test, and you just gotta pass the next test. We didn’t pass one. We passed most of ‘em, and I felt like we would come back and play well.”

Right fielder Claire Timm — a natural infielder who has been learning the corner outfield positions this year — had one of the biggest defensive plays, making a diving catch in foul territory for an out in the fifth inning.

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Oklahoma State infielder Claire Timm (18) catches the ball for an out against Northern Colorado in the fifth inning of a softball game in the first round of the Stillwater Regional of the NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Okla., Friday, May 17, 2024. Oklahoma State won 6-0.
Oklahoma State infielder Claire Timm (18) catches the ball for an out against Northern Colorado in the fifth inning of a softball game in the first round of the Stillwater Regional of the NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Okla., Friday, May 17, 2024. Oklahoma State won 6-0.

Poullard, Davis with big swings

Looking ahead, perhaps the most promising piece of Friday’s win was how the first-year Cowgirls performed at the plate — some of whom were making their NCAA Tournament debut.

Freshman second baseman Rosie Davis lined an RBI double off the top of the fence in her first at-bat, then added two more singles, finishing 3 for 3 with two RBIs and a run scored.

“When I got to second base on the first one, I was smiling really big,” Davis said. “Then I felt like I got more and more comfortable as the game went on.”

Godwin, another freshman, singled in her first at-bat. Sophomore Lexi McDonald had just one postseason at-bat last year, but started in right field Friday and came through with an RBI single.

Transfer seniors Caroline Wang and Jilyen Poullard had NCAA Tournament experience at their previous schools, but showed that the Cowgirls should expect nothing different than the reliable production the veterans provided in the regular season.

Wang singled and scored in the first inning on Davis’ double, and Poullard had the biggest swings of all.

The center fielder hit a solo home run in the third inning before Davis came through with her second run-scoring hit. And Poullard thought she had another homer in the sixth.

The high fly ball bounced off the top of the wall and came back into play, but initially it was called a home run. Poullard circled the bases, celebrated with her team and entered the dugout before umpires gathered to discuss the play and go to video review.

Replay showed the ball returning to the field of play, which resulted in a two-run double for Poullard.

“(Hitting coach Vanessa Shippy-Fletcher) just tells us, ‘Your best swing,’” Poullard said. “If you’re not gonna put your best swing on it, what’s the point? The craziest part about it is on both of those hits, I didn’t feel like I hit the ball very well. I thought they were pop flys, maybe at the warning track.

“The one that bounced back in, that was pretty weird, but I didn’t even square the ball up, so I’ll take what I can get.”

Poullard has hit five home runs in her last six games, and continues to be a spark at the top of the batting order, reaching base 18 times in the last 12 games.

But she said she’d been feeling the nerves for this game all week until she arrived at the stadium and saw how focused her teammates were.

“I didn’t have my best practices this week,” Poullard said. “I’ve been worried too much about today and I haven’t been where my feet are very well this week. So getting back locked into thinking ‘Where are you making contact with the ball?’

“You’d be amazed what you can do when you just focus on the small things like that.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma State Cowgirls beat Northern Colorado in NCAA softball opener