STILLWATER — It only took until her fifth season, but Rachel Becker is headed to the NCAA Tournament.
Becker, Oklahoma State’s graduate transfer second baseman, spent her first four collegiate seasons at Purdue, missing out each time on the Boilermakers appearing in the field of 64 teams.
On Sunday evening, watching with her new teammates during a weekend retreat in Broken Bow, Becker learned the Cowgirls wouldn’t just be appearing in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, OSU earned the No. 6 seed and will host a regional in Stillwater this weekend.
“When our name popped up there, I think my heart rate shot up like 100 beats,” Becker said.
Despite losing 11 of its last 13 games, OSU managed to earn one of the top eight seeds, meaning OSU won’t need to leave the state as it aims to return to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
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“Our body of work is really good, that’s why we go to (the) Clearwater (Invitational) no matter what, because you’ve got to go put yourself in those spots,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “Like I told our team, those tournaments are what prepare you for this time of year, but it’s also what earns you these type of seeds.”
But before OSU can reap the benefits of being a top seed — which includes hosting a super regional — they’ll need to win the regional.
With a loaded regional grouping, OSU (41-14) hosts Wichita State, Nebraska and UMBC across three days in a double-elimination bracket.
The Shockers (43-10) pose the biggest threat to OSU advancing. Beyond ranking No. 23 in the NCAA Women’s Softball RPI, WSU beat OSU twice this season, recording an 8-7 win at home and defeating the Cowgirls 3-1 in extra innings in Stillwater.
Road games have been kind to Wichita State. They post a 13-4 road record, a better mark than OSU’s 11-6 road record. They also have shortstop Sydney McKinney, whose .519 batting average ranks first in the country.
“I think we all knew Wichita State was coming here, so that wasn’t a shock at all,” Gajewski said. “When their name popped up, I just looked around and I was like, ‘OK, you guys owe them. Let’s prepare.’”
If the bracket goes without upsets, the Cowgirls and Shockers would meet Saturday. OSU opens with UMBC on Friday, followed by WSU and Nebraska later that evening.
OSU fared better against Nebraska this season, posting two wins in nonconference play, defeating the Cornhuskers 10-0 and 3-1 in back-to-back weekends.
“Everybody in this tournament has hope again,” Gajewski said. “It’s like Opening Day, the slate is 0-0 and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, you better show up and play or you’ll get beat.”