Oklahoma State softball: Lexi Kilfoyl finishes strong as Cowgirls complete sweep of Baylor
STILLWATER — With the exception of the comfortable lead, Lexi Kilfoyl couldn’t have come into a much more difficult situation.
The Oklahoma State senior pitcher entered in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs, trying to protect a five-run lead.
And aside from a mishandled grounder to first base that allowed an unearned run to score, Kilfoyl was otherwise perfect, closing the door on the inning, the game and the series sweep of 20th-ranked Baylor with a 5-1 win on Sunday at Cowgirl Stadium.
No. 2 OSU (29-2, 2-0 Big 12) jumped on Baylor (23-8, 0-3) early with a three-run home run from Kiley Naomi, her team-best eighth of the year, in the bottom of the first inning. OSU added another run in the first and one more in the second while starting pitcher Kelly Maxwell looked strong through four innings.
She had allowed no runs on three hits with no walks through four. But in the fifth, Maxwell seemed to lose command of the strike zone. She walked two, then hit the third batter of the inning. After Maxwell started with a 1-1 count on the next hitter, OSU coach Kenny Gajewski went to the bullpen.
“She just looked like she lost it, so we got her out of there,” Gajewski said of Maxwell. “We feel good about who’s coming in next, and next.”
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Maxwell earned the win to improve to 9-0 on the season, and Kilfoyl picked up her second save of the year.
While Gajewski would’ve liked to see his offense keep punching after the fast start, he was pleased with the early outburst.
“We came out and we hit them hard early and kind of felt like it put them to sleep a bit,” he said. “That’s what we wanted to do. It’s what we’ve been talking about. It’s hard and you run out of energy at times in these series.”
Rachel Becker led off Sunday’s game with a walk and had a bunt single in the second inning, scoring both times. The leadoff hitter is batting .518 with a .643 on-base percentage for the season.
“I definitely feel like when we can jump on teams and score in the first inning, it gets them down, especially with how well our pitching staff has been doing,” Becker said. “When we can even just get one run in the first inning, the other teams feel the pressure that they need to score two, and that’s not easy to do against us.”
The Cowgirls have scored in the first inning in four of the last five games, and often, it’s Becker leading the charge from the top of the batting order.
A super-senior transfer from Purdue, Becker has reached base in all 31 games of her Cowgirl career and hit safely in 28 of them.
If Becker would like advice from the player with OSU’s record for the most consecutive games reaching base, she can find her in the dugout. Assistant coach Vanessa Shippy-Fletcher, who played for the Cowgirls from 2015-18, set the record at 48 games.
Shippy-Fletcher has served as the team’s first-base coach in her previous two seasons as a volunteer assistant but hasn’t been in that role as often this season while expecting her second child.
Here’s a look at how the rest of the week went for the Cowgirls.
No. 2 Oklahoma State
Overall record: 29-2, 3-0 Big 12
Last week: 4-0 (Beat North Texas 2-0, beat Baylor 6-5 in 11 innings, 5-0 and 5-1)
This week: At Tulsa, 5 p.m. Wednesday; at Incarnate Word, 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday
More:How Oklahoma State softball players bought into hitting coach Whitney Cloer
Kilfoyl did everything it took to throw a no-hitter on Saturday. Her only mistake was giving up a hit before embarking on her spotless performance.
The Alabama transfer gave up a single to Baylor’s McKenzie Wilson to start the game, an eventual 5-0 OSU win. Then she held the Bears hitless the rest of the way with no walks and two baserunners reaching on errors.
That performance came a day after Maxwell nearly threw the equivalent of a seven-inning no-hitter — in relief.
The Cowgirl ace entered with one out in the top of the fifth inning of a tied game that OSU eventually won 6-5 in 11 innings.
Maxwell didn’t allow a hit, walking three and striking out 10 in 6 ⅔ scoreless innings to earn the win.
“I’m proud of Kelly for being able to go that long when she just thought she was going to be the closer,” Gajewski said. “She didn’t throw a ton of pitches, but it was a draining game. Every pitch, the ballgame was on the line.”
Baylor managed 14 hits over the three-game series, 10 of which came in the first five innings on Friday.
Earlier in the week, Maxwell earned her fourth save of the year in a 2-0 win over North Texas, throwing one scoreless inning behind shutout work from Kilfoyl and Kyra Aycock.
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Call her Megan Clutchworth
The Cowgirls’ 11-inning win on Friday had a little bit of everything. The Cowgirls fell behind 5-0 in the second inning, rallied back to tie it in the fourth, then the teams locked into a stalemate.
OSU managed three hits over the next six innings. But in the bottom of the 11th, a pair of walks and a Morgyn Wynne single loaded the bases.
With two outs, Megan Bloodworth poked the first pitch she saw through the left side for the walk-off single.
A transfer from Alabama, Bloodoworth has settled in at third base for the Cowgirls this season. Regularly holding the No. 9 spot in the batting order, she’s batting .224, but it’s not for a lack of contact. She has struck out just seven times in 78 plate appearances.
Only two OSU batters with at least that many plate appearances have fewer strikeouts — Tallen Edwards and Katelynn Carwile.
More:What Kenny Gajewski, Kelly Maxwell & Cowgirls said at Oklahoma State softball media day
Hitting the road
After spending nearly the entire month of March at Cowgirl Stadium, OSU will be hitting the road for its next seven games.
That will include trips to Tulsa, Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Wichita State and Kansas.
OSU’s next home game will be against Tulsa on April 11.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OSU softball: Lexi Kilfoyl finishes strong to close sweep of Baylor