Why Florida softball player Julia Cottrill is rooting for Oklahoma State at the WCWS

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Julia Cottrill didn’t feel out of place in the Oklahoma State section. 

As the OSU fans packed into the USA Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday afternoon, she wore a smile as she saw familiar faces. She gave out hugs, took photos and even put up a finger pistol as the Cowgirls made their way into the dugout. 

Safe to say, cheering for the team other than her alma mater was “not weird”. 

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Cottrill, a sophomore, plays college softball for Florida. She’s a starter and plays a vital role for the Gators. But this season, Florida fell just shy of the Women's College World Series with two losses to Georgia in the Super Regional. Now, as Oklahoma State enters the WCWS, the former Stillwater High School star drove 18 hours to cheer on the team her father, Jeff Cottrill, helps coach, in person.

“It feels so good to be able to support my dad,” Julia said while wearing a white ‘Cowgirls softball’ shirt. “To still be able to come to the World Series and feel all the cool vibes and stuff. But to be able to support my dad is outstanding.” 

Julia Cottrell at the College World Series wearing OSU attire to support her father.

Julia doesn't believe she'll get much flack from her Florida teammates for cheering on OSU –– maybe for the shirt but not for her attendance. Julia said they “understand she’s cheering for her dad.”

“He was able to come to the Georgia series this year and support,” Julia said. “and he wore a Florida shirt so I told him I would wear a Cowgirl shirt just for him.”

Jeff is in his sixth season as part of the OSU softball program. He was the director of operations for his first two seasons then the pitching coach before taking over as the hitting coach in 2020. His role with the Cowgirls sparked the Cottrill family to move from Wichita, Kansas, to Stillwater before Julia’s sophomore year of high school.

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Julia became a powerhouse at Stillwater and was often regarded as the best hitter in the state

She was named to The Oklahoman’s Big All City first-team roster after batting .547 with 10 home runs, 10 doubles and three triples to lead Stillwater to the Class 6A state tournament in her senior year. The spectacular season also led to Julia getting picked for the USA Softball Junior Women's National Team selection trials for the second time. 

The Wichita native became well-loved in the Stillwater community. 

So how did a Division-I talent that spent three years in Stillwater with a father as a coach on the Oklahoma State bench end up at Florida? 

It actually has much to do with the recruiting of Oklahoma State head coach Kenny Gajewski. 

“Back when she was younger, 8th and 9th grade,” Jeff said. “the recruiting of softball players was happening at a really young age. Kenny (Gajewski), before he got the job at Oklahoma State, was actually helping recruit her to go to Florida. That’s actually how I met Kenny was through him recruiting Julia. So she fell in love with Florida.”

Six years ago, college coaches were allowed to offer scholarships to recruits at any age. That changed in 2017 when the NCAA passed a rule that prohibited coaches from offering scholarships to recruits before Aug. 1 or Sept. 1 of their junior year. The new rules apply to all sports other than football, baseball and men’s and women’s basketball. 

Julia committed to Florida during her freshman year of high school and did not look back even after Gajewski accepted the head coaching job at Oklahoma State. But her time in Stillwater, alongside her father, allowed her to grow close to the OSU program. She spent a lot of time around the players and staff.

She played high school softball with Taylor Tuck and became good friends with Oklahoma natives Sydney Pennington and Chyenne Factor. 

Julia Cottrill, middle, cheers during a Women's College World Series game between Oklahoma State and  Georgia at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 3, 2021.

So as Factor hammered a home run over the centerfield wall in the third inning to give OSU a 2-0 lead over Georgia, she was up cheering with the rest of Oklahoma State fandom as Factor rounded the bases.

Oklahoma State bested Georgia 3-2 in seven innings in the opening round of the College World Series. The final out was met with a standing ovation from the Oklahoma State crowd that nearly filled the stadium, including the new upper decks.

“There’s a lot of people, it’s awesome," Julia said. "and seeing all the orange and support for the Oklahoma State program is amazing because they’ve come so far in the past five years. So it’s really cool to see the growth of the fans."

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