From the time that Kenny Gajewski took over the Oklahoma State softball program in June 2015, he has led the Cowgirls back into the national spotlight and molded his team into one of college softball’s most promising programs.
During each of his first four seasons at the helm, Gajewski (pronounced ‘GUY-ehh-ski’) has guided the Cowgirls to the NCAA Tournament. He has also won 154 games during his first four years in Stillwater - the most by a head coach during his or her first four seasons in team history – and in 2019, he led OSU back to the Women’s College World Series for the eighth time in school history.
Gajewski’s 154 wins is a notable feat in and of itself. But when you also consider that several of the OSU head coach’s wins have come against the nation’s toughest competition, it only furthers the already-impressive nature of his team’s performance.
Fourty-five of Gajewski’s victories came during an incredible 2019 campaign that saw the Cowgirls finish second in the Big 12 conference for the second-straight year en route to its first WCWS appearance since 2011. OSU’s 45 victories was the program’s highest single-season total since 1994, its eight postseason wins were the most in school history and the Cowgirls bested top-25 foes on 14 occasions – more than any other OSU team in the program’s rich history.
The Pokes finished the year at No. 6 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll, marking the school’s highest standing in the national polls since finishing the 1998 season at No. 4. Non-coincidentally, that 1998 team was the last OSU squad to win a World Series contest until the 2019 team toppled fifth-seeded Florida, 2-1, in Oklahoma City in 2019.
In conference play, the Cowgirls continue to be the Big 12’s rising power behind Oklahoma, as they have improved upon their standing in the league each season under Gajewski thus far.
Oklahoma State posted a 6-12 record and finished fifth in Gajewski’s first season at the helm, but the rate of improvement has been astronomical the last three years. The Pokes made their first leap in 2017 when they rattled off victories in 11 of their first 12 conference games and finished third behind Baylor and Oklahoma. In 2018, it was one step closer to the top as OSU racked up 12 Big 12 victories and posted the program’s first top-two finish in the conference in 15 years.
The 2019 season was merely the next step in the progression and was the best yet of the Gajewski era.
OSU secured 13 wins against Big 12 opponents in 2019 – the program’s best total since 2003 and finished second for the second-straight year. The Big 12 Conference finished as the No. 2 RPI league in the country at the season’s end, one step higher than it did in 2018, only further adding to the impressive season that the Cowgirls produced in the conference.
During Gajewski’s first three seasons in charge, the program underwent immense growth to get back to the standards it once maintained during the reign of legendary coach Sandy Fischer. The 2016 team – Gajewski’s first – produced 32 wins, the 2017 team added 38 wins to its coach’s tally and the 2018 squad posted 39 victories on its resume.
Oklahoma State, for all its success on the field, also continued to be among the best away from the diamond in 2019. The Cowgirls had 10 players named Academic All-Big 12 honorees, marking the fourth-straight year that OSU has had at least 10 competitors recognized by the league office. Forty-two Cowgirls have been named to one of the Academic All-Big 12 teams during Gajewski’s four seasons – the most of any team in the conference.
The OSU head coach also has overseen three Academic All-District and three Academic All-America honorees during his stint in Stillwater.
Gajewski’s tenure in Stillwater has helped reshape the program record books, as Oklahoma State has added 15 names to list of NFCA All-Region honorees and 19 to its list of players to receive all-conference accolades. That group of elite talent includes two-time Big 12 Player of the Year Vanessa Shippy, 2019 NFCA All-American Samantha Show and four-time All-Big 12 honoree Madi Sue Montgomery.
Twice, Gajewski and his staff have also been the one’s recognized by the NFCA, as Oklahoma State was named the Midwest Regional Coaching Staff of the Year after both the 2017 and 2019 seasons. The 2017 season was highlighted by the program’s first top-three finish in the Big 12 since 2010 and a road shutout of No. 1 Florida during the NCAA Gainesville Regional in May. Meanwhile, the 2019 team picked up 11 victories over top-15 opponents, and met or surpassed a number of benchmarks for elite programs that the Cowgirls hadn’t touched in nearly 20 years.
While the last three seasons have been filled with whilrwinds of success for a program reborn, Gajewski’s inaugural Stillwater campaign wasn’t without its highlights either, as it was a year that saw him lead the Cowgirls back to the postseason for the first time since 2011. Under his leadership, OSU led the Big 12 in Academic All-Big 12 selections, broke 11 school records and had its first player earn both Academic All-America and All-America honors since 2003 in Vanessa Shippy.
Shippy, under Gajewski’s watchful eye, also earned All-America and Academic All-America honors in 2017 and 2018, making her just the second Oklahoma State athlete, regardless of sport, to earn at least three All-America and Academic All-America honors.
OSU showed it was destined for a return to success early in Gajewski’s first season when OSU picked up a February win over No. 9 Washington in the Mary Nutter Classic, which was the program’s first win over a top-10 opponent since 2013. From there, the Cowgirls continued to build on their early success as they looked to restore the program to its winning ways.
Before coming to Oklahoma State, Gajewski coached alongside Tim Walton at Florida, where the Gators won back-to-back national championships in his final two years. In 2015, Florida posted top-25 NCAA marks in earned run average (1.63), scoring (6.55 runs per game) and on-base percentage (.438), in addition to leading the nation in the fielding percentage category. The Gators’ 60-7 record led the country in win-loss percentage and marked the second-highest win total in school history.
Prior to joining the Gators, Gajewski spent the 2011-12 season as the director of baseball operations at Tennessee. With the Volunteers, he was in charge of managing UT’s camps, overseeing student managers and handling the day-to-day operations of the baseball program. Gajewski’s roots trace back to the University of Oklahoma, however, as he played for the Sooner baseball squad in 1994 that won a national championship and earned his first coaching stint as a graduate assistant the following season.
Gajewski then served as a volunteer assistant at Kansas State in 1996 before returning to Norman, where he would begin a 10-year stretch as the Sooners’ turf and maintenance director. In 2001, the field at OU’s L. Dale Mitchell Park was named the Beam Clay Baseball Diamond of the Year. That same season, the OU Softball Complex was presented the Field Maintenance Award by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and TURFACE sports field products.
From 2007 onward, Gajewski was the owner and operator of three Norman, Okla.-based turf businesses - Champions Athletic Turf (athletic field renovation), Sooner Curb and Border (decorative concrete) and Ameriturf MidSouth (synthetic turf), but has since moved on from the projects to fully invest in his coaching career.
A native of Los Alamitos, Calif., Gajewski has two children, Preston and Logan Gajewski.
John Bargfeldt is entering his 15th season as a collegiate softball coach in the state of Oklahoma, and his first as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State. He spent the past 14 seasons as the head coach at the University of Tulsa, where he built TU into a nationally-prominent program and one of the premier teams in the AAC.
During his time on the east side of the state, Bargfeldt won a conference title (regular season and tournament) in eight of his 14 seasons, totaling 13 league championships and 11 NCAA Regional appearances. Bargfeldt owns the most wins and highest winning percentage in school history and was the program’s longest-tenured head coach.
The Golden Hurricane had a winning record in each of his 14 seasons, and he was the only coach in TU history to post at least four winning seasons. Bargfeldt compiled a career record of 535-270-1 (.664) and won at least 40 games six times.
During his stint as coach, he helped develop six All-Americans, 68 all-conference players, 37 first-team honorees and 27 NFCA All-Region selections. In addition, the Golden Hurricane produced 20 C-USA Academic Medalists, 12 C-USA All-Academic Team members, four CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and six Academic All-District student-athletes under Bargfeldt’s watch.
Bargfeldt has been praised nationally for his success coaching pitchers throughout his tenure at Tulsa.
Recently, he has assisted heavily in the development of four-year starter Emily Watson, who was a thorn in the side of the nation’s top batters throughout her career and was a second-team All-American in 2017 as a junior. Bargfeldt also worked with freshman Chenise Delce last season, coaching the youngster to a 15-6 record in 26 appearances. Delce made 23 starts, tossed 10 complete games, struck out 124 batters and posted a 1.63 ERA in 141.2 innings pitched during her first collegiate season.
He also coached three-time NFCA All-American Aimee Creger during her historic career at Tulsa.
Prior to joining the Golden Hurricane, Bargfeldt was an assistant coach at Georgia Tech for the 2004 season. He worked primarily with the pitchers and catchers, served as the bench coach and threw batting practice for the Yellow Jackets. He helped Tech post a 49-17 record, make an NCAA Regional appearance and was instrumental in the success of third-team All-American Jessica Sallinger, who broke 15 school records and finished fourth nationally with a 0.97 earned run average that seasons.
From 1980-82, Bargfeldt was an assistant baseball coach at Anderson University in Anderson, Ind., where he served as the pitching and hitting coach. He completed his bachelor’s degree in 1981 while coaching at Anderson.
As a student-athlete himself, Bargfeldt was an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American in football and baseball. He was drafted in the 31st round of the 1977 Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs.
Bargfeldt is a former ASA National Player Representative, and was also a member of the ASA National Board of Directors (2000-04). He served on the Men’s National Team Selection Committee during that time as well. As a member of the board, he assisted with the selection of the coaching staff and the national team members. The 2002 team won the program’s first Pan-American Qualifier Gold Medal.
As a member of the ASA’s Men’s Fast Pitch national team in 1991, Bargfeldt won a silver med at the Pan American Games as the starting shortstop. In 1993, he was on the gold medal-winning team at the U.S. Sports Festival. He was also a five-time ASA Men’s Fastpitch All-American.
Bargfeldt and his wife, Barbara, have three children: Kenny, Alexya and Jeb.
One of the greatest players in the history of the program, Vanessa Shippy returned to Oklahoma State as a volunteer assistant coach in August of 2020.
A three-time All-American during her playing days, Shippy was also a three-time Academic All-American. She was twice honored as Big 12 Player of the Year and in 2018, was a top-10 finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
Shippy finished her Cowgirl career with a .404/.532/.585 slash line and ranks among the top two in school history in all three categories.
After graduating, she was drafted into the National Pro Fastpitch league and played a season before taking a job at Syracuse, where she served as an assistant coach for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Shippy returns to Stillwater to join an Oklahoma State program that appeared in the Women’s College World Series in 2019 and was making a run at it again in 2020. At the time the season shut down due to the COVID pandemic, the Cowgirls were 19-5 and ranked No. 16 in the nation.
“The energy around Stillwater is something anyone would want to be part of,” Shippy said. “The opportunity to come back here and join this staff means so much to me. I want to add as much value as possible to this program because I care so deeply about it.”