OKLAHOMA CITY — On Wednesday, May 29, head coaches Kenny Gajewski, Tim Walton and Patty Gasso looked like long-time buddies in a Women's College World Series press conference.
Oklahoma State's Gajewski and Florida's Walton both played on OU's 1994 baseball team under former head coach Larry Cochell to win the College World Series. Walton went on to hire Gajewski as an assistant coach at Florida in 2013. Gasso, sitting two spots to their left, remembers them more fondly from when the two worked for her in the year her Oklahoma squad won the national championship in 2000.
Walton played a more immediate role for Oklahoma at the time than Gajewski did, serving as an assistant coach — Gajewski served as a groundskeeper for Oklahoma's Marita Hynes Field. But his position didn't stop Gajewski from being just as vocal during games.
"I think (Gasso) would agree he was pretty funny, loosened up the dugout a little bit," Walton said. "He did talk some trash. Sent me to the dugout, slap him a couple times, say, ‘You can't say that.'"
Almost two decades later, the three coaches are now in the same WCWS bracket competing against each other. Oklahoma State beat Florida, 2-1, and Oklahoma overcame the Crimson Tide, 3-2, on Thursday night, creating a Bedlam rematch between Gasso and her former groundskeeper at 8:30 p.m. on Friday.
"To see where they started and where they are now really doesn't have a lot to do with me, it's more of them," Gasso said. "They have an absolute desire to want to learn. They've always been that way."
In his first three years with OSU, Gajewski has tallied 109 wins, the most wins from any OSU coach in their first three years at the helm of the program. Gajewski has led the Cowgirls to their first WCWS berth since 2011.
Oklahoma has beat OSU 23 straight times, but that doesn't take away the significance of the matchup. For starters, it's a WCWS between two elite Oklahoma teams. And Oklahoma State most likely would've faced Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament final, but rain canceled the conclusion of the tourney — the automatic NCAA Tournament bid was given to the Sooners based on their superior regular season record.
The Cowgirls are 45-15 on the season. After being swept by the Sooners in the beginning of May, the team has gone on to win eight of its last nine games — including a Super Regional series-win against Florida State.
Gajewski and the Cowgirls beat his old mentor on Thursday night. He's going to face another mentor in arguably the biggest Bedlam game to date on Friday.
"I've been lucky. That's the bottom line," Gajewski said. "I'm lucky to be around people like this. But it's more than anything still about relationships. We just happen to be softball coaches. I'm the young one, they're the old ones. I kind of sit up here, I'm just going to learn. This is like a laboratory for us, keep learning and growing."
Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
Time: 8:30 p.m. CT
Date: Friday, May 31
Location: USA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City
TV Channel: ESPN