OSU softball: The Cowgirls are going into a new era without stars such as Rachel Becker, Chyenne Factor, Kelly Maxwell and Kiley Naomi. But reinforcements are coming. Highly-touted freshmen Katie Kutz and Karli Godwin and two recruits who will be key players in OSU’s future.
STILLWATER — Katie Kutz’s favorite pitches right now are her rise ball and changeup.
It makes sense. For a true freshman who touched 70 miles-per-hour three years ago, having a good changeup proves especially devastating.
Kutz started for OSU in an exhibition game against Seminole State on Tuesday, pitching three scoreless innings and continuing an impressive start to her fall ball season. Karli Godwin, OSU’s freshman first baseman, hit a blast over the left field wall in the second inning to ensure Kutz got the win.
OSU coach Kenny Gajewski is expecting Kutz and Godwin to remain impactful players when games start to count in February.
“They are obviously very talented and they’re going to be a big part of our future,” Gajewski said. “They’re going to get a lot of at-bats and a lot of time here right away.”
Softball America ranked Kutz the No. 6 recruit in the 2023 class. Extra Inning softball had her at No. 13, and Godwin at No. 8. Both players were big gets for an OSU program that has appeared in four consecutive Women’s College World Series, but lost star shortstop Kiley Naomi, second baseman Rachel Becker, center fielder Chyenne Factor and pitcher Kelly Maxwell.
Kutz was 44-0 with a 0.50 ERA for Bishop O’Connel in Virginia and won Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and senior. She has a chance to slide into a pitching rotation featuring Lexi Kilfoyl, Kyra Aycock and Ivy Rosenberry.
Godwin was the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior after batting .731 with 20 home runs for East Columbus High School. She struck out just once her senior year but jokes she was relieved to end her unfortunate slump by immediately following it up with a playoff home run.
She has a chance to fill a key role in OSU’s infield that graduated Naomi, Becker and Morgyn Wynne.
Kutz and Godwin got connected at OSU through developmental summer camps. Gajewski said some recruits fall in love with the program immediately.
“The summer after my freshman year I came (to a camp),” Godwin said. “I told my dad as soon as I left, this is where I want to be if God will make it possible.”
Kutz’s experience was similar, and she has only gotten more comfortable. She has enjoyed working with Carrie Eberle, OSU’s new pitching coach who was a prolific drop ball pitcher.
“I really want to get good at throwing a drop ball,” Kutz said. “Obviously Carrie has helped me with all my pitches, but she’s a great drop ball pitcher so it’s great to learn from her about my drop ball. I think that’s going to get a lot better by spring.”
She and Godwin are roommates who Gajewski said are tied at the hip. On a roster with ten new players, the freshmen have gelled well with upperclassmen.
“I remember one thing (senior center fielder) Scotland David said to me was she really wanted to make sure that there wasn’t a big gap between the freshmen and the seniors,” Kutz said.
Gajewski will take his team to a cabin in Broken Bow in a few weeks. He hopes the short vacation will help the Cowgirls become even more cohesive.
“I think the older girls are doing a great job of just making us feel included,” Godwin said. “We’re always at each other’s houses. They’re always saying to bring all the freshmen, and they want to hang out. It’s been easy for me.”