Lexi Kilfoyl’s softball career at Oklahoma State is worth celebrating

As she walked off a college softball field for the last time, Oklahoma State’s Lexi Kilfoyl stared at the dirt crunching beneath her shoes.

The Cowgirls’ top pitcher had done everything she could, and for one of the few times all season, it wouldn’t be enough.

All that was left was to watch as eighth-seeded Stanford completed an 8-0 run-rule victory in six innings on Friday night to eliminate fifth-seeded OSU (49-12) in the Women’s College World Series.

Simply put, it wasn’t Kilfoyl’s night. That honor went to Stanford star right-hander NiJaree Canady, who allowed three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts, putting pressure on the Cowgirls to keep Stanford (49-16) alive.

Kilfoyl battled her emotions as she left in the fourth inning. Her slumped shoulders and drooping head were a justified response for a player and a team that arrived Thursday with national championship dreams.

But Kilfoyl should be proud of her efforts in getting the Cowgirls this far.

More: How Oklahoma State Softball Player Jilyen Poullard Overcame Her ‘Mental Warfare’ to Light the Team

“Lexi is a leader unlike anything I’ve seen before,” OSU super-senior catcher Caroline Wang said. “I’m not sure anyone watching the games from the outside can see it, the person she is for this team.

“Honestly, just a rock. She’s stable. Even on her worst days, she is.”

Kilfoyl was one of the nation’s top pitchers for most of the year and earned one of three finalist spots for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year – an award that ultimately went to Canady.

Kilfoyl followed up the regular season with a wildly successful postseason, pitching OSU to all five regional and super-regional wins.

And she was nearly untouchable in the WCWS opener, allowing two hits, one of which happened to be the game-tying home run in Florida’s 1-0 victory.

After she was relieved on Friday, Kilfoyl disappeared from the dugout and OSU coach Kenny Gajewski sought her out.

“I said, ‘Hey, your teammates need you here,’” Gajewski said. “I wanted to emphasize to her how important she is to us.”

More: How Oklahoma State softball player Micaela Wark saw the season change since dad’s home run catch

While the ending wasn’t what Kilfoyl or any Cowgirl wanted, her two-year OSU career was brilliant, and when the pain of a winless WCWS fades, her time in Stillwater will be celebrated as such.

Even Friday, it took a team to do something no one had achieved in almost two seasons against Kilfoyl. The last team to hit two home runs off her in the same game was Virginia Tech on February 17, 2023.

“I’ve probably never seen her as emotional as she is tonight,” Gajewski said. “I could see it early when she gave up the home run. I saw a look on her face. I was like, I don’t like it. I was just worried about her.

“I think you just feel things slipping away, even though it was early in the game. After last night I knew it was going to be hard to come back.

Kilfoyl finishes the season with a 1.33 ERA, striking out 152 batters in 180 ⅔ innings. She caps off her college career with three WCWS trips, the last two with OSU after transferring from Alabama.

But her legacy is more than numbers. Much more.

“Everyone is looking at her,” Wang said. “That’s something I’ve admired about her from the beginning. There are really talented people out there, and Lexi clearly is, but she has the best interest of the team at heart. She is the best teammate when she is not pitching, just like she is when she is on the field.”

More: Oklahoma State softball catcher Caroline Wang chose the Cowgirls because of one key factor

Wang and midfielder Jilyen Poullard both transferred to OSU this year, so they spent just one season at Kilfoyl and walked away admiring the way their leader pulled through the good and the bad.

“I’ve also never seen anyone who can lead with such poise and, in a sense, so effortlessly,” Poullard said. “She cares more than anything, and there’s no doubt about that. You can ask any girl on this team: Lexi’s heart is always, always in it, even if she doesn’t show much emotion. If she says something, it’s time to get things straight.”

Kilfoyl was the No. 10 draft pick in the Athletes Unlimited professional softball league, so she hasn’t thrown her final pitch yet.

“I talk to a lot of kids and they always say, ‘I want to be the best’ — until it gets hard,” Gajewski said. ‘She never ran away. She just hugged hard.

“I just wanted to remind her that we appreciate that and it’s not over yet, so you just have to continue to embrace the hard.”

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