Cowgirls bring combination of new and old faces to the infield

OSU vs. OU 2019 WCWS 009.JPG

Cowgirl Kiley Naomi looks to throw to third base during the Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma softball game on May 31, 2019, in Oklahoma City. The No. 1 Sooners defeated the No. 13 Cowgirls 6-1 for their second win of the 2019 Women's College World Series. (DEVIN LAWRENCE WILBER/O'Colly)

Replacing his best infield might be difficult for coach Kenny Gajewski, but in his mind, they have just what it takes. 

As the No. 13 OSU softball team gears up for its fifth season coached by Gajewski, its infield has a large task in front of it - replacing the 123 hits, 28 doubles, 26 home runs and 103 RBIs that former Cowgirls Madi Sue Montgomery and Samantha Show produced last season, leading OSU to its first Women’s College World series in eight years.

The two players Gajewski has tasked with filling the void of the pair of program legends are freshman Karli Petty at second base and senior transfer from Georgia Alysen Febrey at first base.

Replacing Montgomery won’t be easy.

She is arguably the greatest softball player to ever don the Cowgirl uniform and holds program records for games played, games started and RBIs and ranks highly in countless other categories. 

Petty, a freshman, not only has big shoes to fill but has no college experience to lean on. Luckily for her, Gajewski has referred to her as the most talented player on his team, and with Montgomery back on the Cowgirls’ staff to guide her, she has everything it takes to be the everyday starter. 

Febrey is a different story from Petty, but an eerily similar one to Show. Febrey came to Stillwater as a transfer for her final season just as Show did just 12 months ago. 

It will not be the longstanding impact that Febrey will have to replace but the single season impact Show made, setting the school record with 20 home runs.

Febrey was a three-year starter at UGA totalling 21 home runs and a batting average of .332 during her time in Athens, Georgia. 

On the other side of the diamond is a familiar pair of faces for OSU fans with Kiley Naomi at shortstop and Sydney Pennington at third base.

Naomi had two different sides to her first season as a Cowgirl. She showed elite level athleticism on the bases and in the field. She constantly pulled off jaw-dropping plays at short and, along with double-play partner Montgomery, made turning-two routine for the Cowgirls.

On the other hand, she had her struggles at the plate. Naomi hit .258/.378/.442 with six home runs and 18 RBIs showing an ability to get on base and utilize her top-end speed. 

Next to her is the girl she supplanted at short in Pennington. The third baseman is entering her junior season and is coming off a year that had its growing pains. 

Along with the transition to a new position at the hot corner, Pennington had her own struggles with the bat in her hand. She started the season 6-for-46 for a batting average of .130 in February, but that's when things changed. Pennington finished the season hitting .270 and totaled 10 home runs and 33 RBIs. 

Behind the plate might be Gajewski's most difficult decision every game; with three fully capable starters, the room for error for the position is slim.

Last season, Mackenzie Thomas started 41 games, and Raquel Dominguez started the remaining 21. With Thomas taking the season off to focus on school, a starting position is up for grabs.

Taylor Tuck and Madison Neighbors are the two that are in line to contend for the innings at catcher. Tuck appeared in 15 games off the bench last season - most of which being a pinch runner - but had the best fall season of any non-pitcher. Neighbors is a highly rated freshman that Gajewski refered to as the most skilled behind the plate. 

To start the seaosn, the trio will likely split games, but it will likely be Dominguez or Neighbors that is the main catcher by years' end.

With Show and Montgomery gone, this group has high expectations, but with the strong mix of new and old faces, they should have what it takes to get the Cowgirls to where they want to be - in Oklahoma City.

sports.ed@ocolly.com