Oklahoma State softball's Chelsea Alexander seeking another new ring at WCWS

Scott Wright
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STILLWATER — Clay Fitzgerald felt the pressure. 

His girlfriend — Oklahoma State softball player Chelsea Alexander — was acutely aware of it, too.

She was the one applying it.

“I was bugging him so much about it, like, man, c’mon, c’mon,” said Alexander, who had been dating Fitzgerald for about three years last fall, when she started hinting at the idea of getting engaged.

“I had made her wait a long time,” Fitzgerald said with a laugh. “It was well overdue.”

So last December, he made the arrangements, got the ring and proposed while at dinner in Oklahoma City. 

Alexander is back in OKC this week, and once again, she’s seeking a ring.

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Oklahoma State's Chelsea Alexander celebrates after sliding safely into third base during the Cowgirls' 6-1 win over Texas in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament on May 13 at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.

This time, she wants a national championship ring, with her seventh-seeded Cowgirls entering the Women’s College World Series as one of the top contenders to unseat defending title-holder and top-seeded Oklahoma.

OSU opens play in the first round of the WCWS against unseeded Arizona at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.

In the moments after Fitzgerald proposed, Alexander notified her teammates of the news via group text.

“Got a ring, but not the one I want,” she wrote.

She was joking — mostly — but it was still a statement about her desire to pour her softball soul into the Cowgirls one last time. 

She had just been through one of the most life-impacting experiences she could imagine, but she knew she couldn’t let the excitement of her long-term decision distract her from the short-term goal that would consume her life for a few more brief months. 

“I really have tried to stay focused on this team,” Alexander said. “I told my fiancé I wasn’t gonna start planning anything until after softball, so I’m not even thinking about that. I actually think it kinda helped me to go ahead and get engaged. 

“We don’t have those conversations anymore and I’m content with where we’re at.”

Fitzgerald is happy, too.

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Oklahoma State softball player Chelsea Alexander and her fiance, Clay Fitzgerald, pose with the Big 12 Tournament championship trophy.

“All that pressure was just a front,” he joked. “No, once we got it all done, she realized, ‘Oh no, I can’t really do anything until the season’s over.’ Or, she didn’t want to, at least.”

Alexander has relented a bit, booking a couple of venue tours. But with the wedding likely to be set for sometime after OSU’s 2023 softball season ends — so her teammates can attend — there’s no major rush.

As she nears the collision of softball life with real life, Alexander knows there’s not another go-round on the basepaths. This week begins her final shot at the sport’s ultimate prize.

But more than that, it’s her last few opportunities on the team bus, or in the locker room, or in the dugout.

“I more get caught up in, ‘What am I gonna do without this?’” Alexander said, tugging at her jersey. “How does my life change? How do I be not a softball player every day?”

Alexander’s desire to finish her career strong has shown up in box scores lately. 

A regular player for much of her career, she has started 53 of 58 games this season, mostly playing left field and batting in the bottom of the order. But for the regular-season finale at Oklahoma, OSU coach Kenny Gajewski bumped her to the leadoff spot and she provided exactly the spark the struggling offense was seeking.

During the nine-game span at the top of the order, she has reached base 13 times and scored seven runs. She’s a perfect eight-of-eight in stolen bases. And her general aggressiveness on the basepaths has generated even more offense by taking extra bases or putting pressure on defenses with her speed. 

“She’s really grown here,” Gajewski said. “I get kind of choked up because of everything this kid has been through. She is exactly what our standard is. She lives it, she breathes it, she sleeps it, she eats it. She loves OSU, she loves this program. It’s cool to see her do this kind of stuff on this stage.”

OSU's Chelsea Alexander (55) celebrates after stealing second base against Clemson on May 27 in the Stillwater Super Regional.

Alexander, a 23-year-old graduate of Latta High School in Ada, met Fitzgerald, a 26-year-old product of Buffalo Valley High School in Talihina, while tailgating for an OSU football game in 2018. 

Alexander was just a freshman then, so Fitzgerald has been along for the ride her entire softball career. 

“I never knew softball was so fun to watch until I started watching all the time,” Fitzgerald said. “I definitely became a softball fan real quick. 

“Chelsea’s a very emotional person and she’s super-invested in this team. She lives that Loyal and True motto for Oklahoma State. She’s the perfect example of that. It’s been a ride, for sure.

“But she does all the work, and I get to follow in the spotlight. I get to meet a lot of cool people and do a lot of cool things because of all her hard work.”

Alexander and Fitzgerald know the joy that awaits them in marriage. But they understand how special the present moment is.

Alexander isn’t going to let her last few chances to wear that Cowgirl jersey slip past.

“It’s hard to just stay focused and appreciate the moment you’re in, and not take it for granted that I don’t have very many more,” Alexander said. “You’re thinking about how many you have left and it just keeps dwindling on you. 

“Soon, I won’t have this anymore, I won’t have this jersey to put on. It’s kinda weird to think about. But I’m engaged. I’m finishing up grad school. 

“I just have to keep myself in check that I’m thinking about the right things.”

OSU vs. Arizona

8:30 p.m. Thursday at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium (ESPN)

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