Tramel's ScissorTales: Oklahoma State softball beats Clemson with homegrown offense

Berry Tramel
Oklahoman
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The bottom of the fifth inning arrived Thursday night at Cowgirl Stadium, a scoreless NCAA Super Regional game between OSU and Clemson

Then the girl from Stillwater lined a double to the right-centerfield wall. The girl from Latta walked and stole second base. 

The girl from Yukon laced a two-run single through the infield. The girl from Purcell launched a double that threatened to break open the game. 

Eventually, that 2-0 OSU lead stood, and the Cowgirls are only a win away from the Women’s College World Series. OSU and Clemson play Game 2 at 8 p.m. Friday. 

Of course, the girl from the Houston suburb of Friendswood had the most to do with OSU’s victory. Kelly Maxwell struck out 13, gave up just two hits and never allowed more than one Clemson baserunner at a time. 

But OSU’s offense was an in-state production. Tuck, the catcher from Stillwater. Alexander, the left fielder from Latta. Factor, the centerfielder from Yukon. And Carwile, the right fielder from Purcell. 

“We’re a pretty big softball state,” Factor said. “Coach recruits here in-state. So I think it's awesome for all of us to be playing here. It’s really cool.” 

NCAA softball:Oklahoma State sweeps Clemson in Stillwater Super Regional, heads to WCWS

The Oklahoma State Cowgirls cheer after Chelsea Alexander scores in a 2-0 win against Clemson on Thursday night.

Kenny Gajewski has built a national power; the Cowgirls are on the verge of their third straight trip to the WCWS. And he’s done it with a bunch of Oklahomans. 

Also in the starting lineup Thursday were Karli Petty, second base, from Southmoore, and Syndey Pennington, third base, from Sand Springs. 

Six of OSU’s nine hitters in the lineup are Oklahomans. 

“It’s what we’ve talked about from Day One here,” Gajewski said. “We have a pretty good example of what a really good softball program has looked like down the road here (at OU). 

“The one thing we’ve always said here is, we’re going to work from the inside out. We’re going to recruit the best players in this state.” 

OSU always has had Oklahomans on its softball roster, often in starring roles. Moore’s Alysia Hamilton, Lawton Eisenhower’s Courtney Totte and Edmond Memorial’s Jamie Foutch were Cowgirl all-Americans in the 15 years before the Gajewski era. 

But this OSU team, ranked seventh and sporting a 45-12 record, seems particularly homegrown. 

“There’s something about Oklahoma State,” Gajewski said. “If you grow up loving this place, it’s a different kind of love. 

“I always want to try to get the best kids here. There’s something about getting home-state kids; they just have a little bit of a different love. That love is powerful, it’s passion, it’s all of that. It’s cool to see.” 

Especially when OSU draws within a win of the Women’s College World Series. 

More:Why did Katelynn Carwile pick Oklahoma State softball at age 13? 'When you know, you know'

OU-Iowa State moved back to Saturday 

The OU-Iowa State series has been one of college football’s best dramas in recent years. 

The Sooners and Cyclones have played seven times in the past six seasons. None was a blowout. The Sooners won hard-fought games 37-27 in 2018 and 34-24 in 2016. 

Every other game went down to the wire: OU won 28-21 in 2021, 27-21 in the 2020 Big 12 Championship Game and 42-41 in 2019. ISU won 37-30 in 2020 and 38-31 in 2017. 

Television has taken notice. When the 2022 Big 12 schedule was released a few months ago, OU’s game at Iowa State was scheduled for October 27, a Thursday night, and was to be televised by Fox Sports1. 

But Thursday, a variety of kickoff times were announced across college football, plus this news. OU at Iowa State has been pushed back to Saturday, October 29. 

“Fox had the right to move the game to Thursday but wasn’t required to,” said Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda. “They ultimately decided not to move it so as to not conflict with the World Series, which will also be on Fox.” 

The move will be fine with both coaching staffs – non-Saturday games disrupt routines, and nobody loves anything more than coaches love routine – and with fans and with Iowa State University. 

Thursday night games are a campus hassle, as the university must deal with parking issues and night classes and all kinds of university-related issues that don’t exist on Saturdays. 

Thursday games are a pain for fans, too. Tailgating is limited – Iowa State is a tailgating monster – and fans are hard-pressed to reach the stadium by a 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. kickoff, since the majority come from outside the college town and are quite employed. 

But Thursdays provide a huge platform for a program. Iowa State has raised its profile in recent years, but a Thursday night game against OU remains a rare jewel for the Cyclones. Much of the nation would have been watching. 

But that night, ESPN has the North Carolina State-Virginia Tech football game, and there’s that World Series issue. Baseball’s October Classic doesn’t draw the viewers it once did, but it still is a major player on the sports viewing scene. 

“I’m guessing television wanted it to go back to Saturday,” said Iowa State associate athletic director Nick Joos. “Didn’t have anything to do with us.” 

Short weeks also were a non-factor. Both OU and Iowa State are off on October 20. 

More:Brent Venables says 'excitement and the enthusiasm is real' as OU Coaches Caravan wraps up

Could Micic help Thunder? 

On December 8, 2020, the Thunder traded Terrance Ferguson, Danny Green and the rights to Frenchman Vincent Poirier for Al Horford, the recently-drafted Theo Maledon, the rights to Serb Vasilije Micic and a top-six 2025 first-round pick. 

The Sixers wanted Green. The Thunder liked Maledon, the draft pick and whatever Horford could eventually bring in a trade. 

Micic? Just another in a long line of Europeans who likely never would cross the pond to play in the NBA. 

Except now, the 28-year-old Micic is the back-to-back most valuable player of the EuroLeague Final Four. He’s a 6-foot-5 sharpshooter who has led Anadolu Efes to consecutive EuroLeague championships. And Micic is open to coming to the NBA. 

In a March interview with eurohoops.net, Micic said, “Honestly, I have a desire to go to the NBA. But in a way, and I told that to the people from Oklahoma, to actually play there. 

“I don’t see myself going there to tell my neighborhood friends that I was in the NBA and bring them back an OKC jersey. That doesn’t inspire me.” 

You can understand Micic’s hesitancy. The case of Gabriel Deck comes to mind. The Argentine and EuroLeague veteran signed with the Thunder in April 2021, played 10 games with OKC, then played seven games this season but was waived in January. Deck averaged 15.8 minutes in 17 NBA games. 

Long-time NBA writer Marc Stein reported a few days ago that “there is already NBA interest in Micic.” 

EuroLeague seasons are not nearly as long as the NBA’s. Players play for national teams as well as their professional club. But in 198 career EuroLeague games, Micic has averaged 12.7 points and shot .365 from 3-point range. He averaged 18.2 points a game for Anadolu Efes this season. 

More:Dyson Daniels and six players OKC Thunder might target with No. 12 pick in NBA Draft

Vasilije Micic led Anadolu Efes to its first EuroLeague championship last year, averaging 16.7 points and 4.9 assists in 40 EuroLeague games.

“As for the NBA, I really don’t know what’s going on,” Micic said. “I have some pro forma contact with people from Oklahoma. They are interested in how I am, how my life is going, but they also mostly know everything. They can’t miss anything. My job is to play…” 

I have no idea how the Thunder view Micic. At 28, he wouldn’t seem to fit in with Sam Presti’s building plan, which won’t be expedited just because OKC came in with the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery

However, could Micic be a trade chip should the Thunder try to deal up in the June 23 draft? 

The Thunder obviously would like to pick No. 1 overall and ostensibly take Jabari Smith, the presumptive top choice. But trading up from No. 2 to No. 1 usually comes at a high cost. 

Would Orlando swap for a package that includes picks No. 2 and No. 12 (which the Thunder has from the Clippers), plus Micic? That’s three quality players, in theory. 

If the Magic are set on staying at No. 1, might the Thunder find a way to move up higher with its No. 12 pick? Sacramento, picking fourth, is in win-now mode. Would the Kings give up the No. 4 pick for the Thunder’s 12, No. 30 and Micic? Would Sacramento ask for even more? 

Who knows? But Micic, a European star, at least gives the Thunder something to talk about in potential trades. 

“I haven’t really heard the NBA league ‘cry’ for me,” Micic told eurohoops.net. “Jokes aside. I don’t follow (the media). I don’t even follow what is happening in the Euroleague. That is a mitigating circumstance for me. 

“That puts a lot of pressure on young players and players my age, that burden with results, statistics and who says what. I went through that early in my career and I know how much it affected me.” 

Either way, a throw-in in the Al Horford trade at least helps make the next few weeks interesting for the Thunder. 

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Mailbag: SEC scheduling 

My item on Southeastern Conference scheduling, once the SEC expands to 16 schools, drew some discussion. 

Tom: “I have no idea how the new SEC will turn out. I can see divisions or no, old rivalries or protected games and a lot of other items. I do not pretend to be an expert on the outcome. I do not disagree with your well-constructed outline of alternatives at all. However, the one comment I will make (based on years of living in SEC country) is regardless of the outcome, a vast majority of the old rivalries will be maintained one way or another. My total perspective changed since leaving Oklahoma. I thought the Big 12 had some good rivalries, but aside from the old OU-Nebraska and OU-Texas in football or KU and Missouri in basketball, a lot of the rivalries are manufactured or recent. The rivalries in the SEC are longstanding … regardless of how they construct it, I can never see an SEC without the protection of the original SEC (prior to the more recent expansion) being protected without a total alumni uproar. Alabama-Auburn, Florida-Georgia, Tennessee-Alabama, Alabama-Georgia, Alabama-Florida, etc. We loved the OU-Texas weekend, but down here it is like OU-Texas for the major teams like three or four times a year. I would love to be that ear in the room when these discussions begin.” 

Tramel: Yes, it would be fun to be in the room, but some of those rivalries you mentioned are not rivalries at all. The SEC is plagued by a lack games between members. 

Alabama and Georgia, for instance, have played six regular-season games SINCE 1995. Alabama-Florida has been staged six times in the regular season this century. 

Tennessee-Georgia has been an big-time SEC East rivalry since the conference went to divisional play 30 years ago. The Volunteers dominated for awhile, now it’s the Bulldogs’ turn. But Tennessee-Georgia was played just six times between 1937 and 1987. 

So let’s not pretend that the SEC has a bunch of old-line feuds. There are the naturals – Alabama-Auburn, Ole Miss-Mississippi State, Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee, Georgia-Florida – but divisional play created more rivalries than it demolished. 

Tramel's ScissorTales:Johnny Bench heading to OKC for book signing on Oklahoma baseball & Route 66

The List: Bowl schedule 

The college football bowl schedule was released Thursday, with some interesting developments: 

1. Sugar Bowl moves:The Sugar Bowl threw its muscle around at the advent of the four-team College Football Playoff, staking claim to New Year’s night, at the expense of playoff games, which some years had to move to New Year’s Eve. So it was frontier justice that the National Football League bullied the Sugar Bowl. The NFL scheduled a Monday night game for January 2, which this season will be the primary major-bowl day. The Sugar can’t go against Monday Night Football, so it’s moving to 11 a.m. New Year’s Eve. Enjoy a short night on Bourbon Street. 

2. Bowl season starts early: Bowl season is getting earlier and earlier. Bowls in recent years have started the third Saturday in December. Conference-championship games on the first Saturday, Army-Navy on the second and the bowls on the third. But this year, two bowls will be played on Friday, December 16 – the Bahamas Bowl and the Cure Bowl in Orlando. Fine by me. A 10:30 a.m. Friday college football kickoff (Bahamas Bowl) can ride shotgun while I work. 

3. January 2 slips: With New Year’s Day occupied by the NFL, New Year’s Eve actually trumps January 2 in terms of game quality. December 31 will have the two playoff semifinals, Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, along with the Sugar Bowl and Music City Bowl, both of which kick off at 11 a.m. January 2 includes the Rose Bowl, with three bowls competing against each other in the early window -- the Cotton Bowl, the Tampa Bay Bowl (formerly the Outback) and the Citrus Bowl. 

4. Where are thou, Fox? There are 43 bowl games. Forty will be televised by ESPN, one by CBS (Sun Bowl), one by Barstool streaming (Arizona Bowl) and one by Fox (Holiday Bowl). Fox is a major college football force. Yet it is virtually shut out of the post-season. Fox needs to get a bigger presence in the bowl business. Of course, the best scenario would be an expanded playoff (12 teams, please) in which multiple networks carry the games. 

5. Hawaii Bowl challenge: On Christmas Eve night, the NFL will offer Steelers-Raiders at 7:15 p.m. Oklahoma time, on NFL Network. The Hawaii Bowl on ESPN kicks off at 7 p.m. The ratings difference will be interesting to monitor. Better show in the NFL. But better platform in the college ranks. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today. 

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