Rachel Becker went out on a limb and sent the email.
Becker, who was in her fourth season at Purdue, entered the transfer portal in January 2022 and had been receiving emails from college coaches across the country that were interested in adding the All-American to their roster. What Becker had never done was send an email to a coach; usually they came flocking to her.
Despite her nervousness, Becker’s Boilmaker teammate and former OSU pitcher Gabby Sprang pushed her to reach out. She knew firsthand the caliber of program her teammate could be walking into.
"I think she was scared to reach out first," Sprang said of Becker reaching out to OSU coach Kenny Gajewski. "But I was like, ‘The worst thing he’s gonna do is not reply to you; just reach out to him.’"
Becker hit send, and Gajewski didn’t waste any time responding; he was interested.
Now, over a year later, Becker has become a star on Gajewski’s team and is leading the Cowgirls heading into the Stillwater Super Regional against Oregon. It’s what Becker wanted—to be challenged, to play on the biggest stage—and she found it in Stillwater. But she may not have ended up a Cowgirl if it weren’t for Sprang, who gave her all the inside information about Gajewski’s program.
Sprang transferred to OSU after her freshman season at Tennessee, looking for a team and a program that felt like a family. During her recruitment in middle school and high school, Sprang got close with Gajewski, who at the time was an assistant coach at Florida, and knew when she entered the transfer portal that she wanted to play under him.
"Honestly, it was just Coach G," Sprang said on why she transferred to OSU. The whole atmosphere that he built, and he really makes you feel like a softball player but also a human, I mean, I still text him... he still supports me, still writes letters of recommendation; he’s just the best guy."
Sprang played three seasons at OSU before transferring to Purdue. She had 14 circle appearances her sophomore season but missed her junior season entirely due to a left elbow injury, ultimately pushing her further down the Cowgirl pitching staff, leading to only two appearances her senior season.
Following her third season as a Cowgirl, Sprang entered the transfer portal. It wasn’t because she was unhappy at OSU; she loved it there. It wasn’t even because of the injuries; it was just better for her education.
"I wanted to expand my education," Sprang said. "I kind of wanted to try something new, go to school a little bit closer to home in the Big 10, and so I was able to get a master’s in one year at Purdue, which was not offered at most other schools, and it wasn’t offered at Oklahoma State."
On the field, Sprang also knew she could have an increased role as a Boilmaker. However, her fifth-year production was limited after she re-injured her left elbow.
Despite her injury, Sprang thoroughly enjoyed her time as a Boilmaker, and loved being around her teammates, one of whom was her "locker buddy," Becker.
It was there, in the Purdue locker room, that Becker started asking Sprang questions about OSU and the transfer portal. Becker didn’t know collegiate softball outside of West Lafayette, Indiana, but Sprang did.
"She kind of just gave me more inside information," Becker said. "It’s easy for somebody on the team that’s been there to be like, ‘You’ll fit in right away; it’ll be great; the team will welcome you,’ because they haven’t actually done it themselves. But when you’re actually talking to somebody who’s kinda taken a leap of faith and left their school to go to a new one, I feel like they actually understand."
Sprang had nothing but positive things to say about Gajewski's program and her time in Stillwater. This prompted Becker to reach out to Gajewski, who expressed his interest right away, which led to them having conversations right after the Cowgirls postseason was finished.
Gajewski knew Becker would fit as a Cowgirl, there was no doubt. He also knew she’d shine in the biggest moments, much like her go-ahead hit in the seventh inning against Nebraska last weekend in the Stillwater Regional.
"I can remember recruiting her and telling her, ‘This is going to happen, and you fit here,' I can see it just in the talks," Gajewski said.
Becker ended up committing to Gajewski and his program, the program that Sprang had left but still loved and the program that she wanted her teammate to be apart of.
When Becker told Sprang that she was going to be a Cowgirl, Sprang was ecstatic and told her she couldn’t wait to visit, which she lived up to when she came to Stillwater for homecoming this past fall.
It was full circle. She was back in Stillwater with her former teammates, but now her Purdue "locker buddy" was in orange and black.
"Seeing her in orange and black, I was like, ‘Wait a minute, this is so full circle for me,’" Sprang said.
Now Sprang is following along as her friend and former teammate leads her alma mater to postseason success. It’s what Becker wanted, and it’s what Sprang and Gajewski both envisioned—Becker leading this team on the biggest stage.
"She’s such a good player, and people are seeing that now," Sprang said. "I wanted her to be able to experience postseason and hosting and hopefully going to the World Series, and just things that a lot of players don’t get to experience.
“She’s killing it; she deserves all the glory”