Before Michael Jordan became Air Jordan, six championship winning star of the 1990s, he had to get past a pesky team first.
The Detroit Pistons were a scrappy bunch built around tough defense that played above their talent level, twice beating the better Chicago Bulls teams on their ways to NBA titles.
It took a lot of mental fortitude for Jordan to eventually surpass them, along with some key move-ins like Scottie Pippen, but he did.
Why am I talking about this old late ’80s tale of the tape? Because it goes along the same stretch that the Oklahoma State softball team went through this past weekend against Tulsa. In Kenny Gajewski’s first few seasons in Stillwater and even before then, the Golden Hurricane stymied OSU with superior defense and continually blocked the Cowgirls’ path to unlocking their true potential.
I know, technically Georgia, Florida and Wichita State were the teams to end OSU’s path the past three seasons under Gajewski, but the fact the Cowgirls couldn’t get past Tulsa was a thorn in their side.
Most of us knew that Tulsa would probably get invited to Stillwater for the NCAA Regional and I thought it poetic OSU would have to beat them to get to its first Super Regional since 2011.
All season long, this team has been saying its goal was to break down the barriers to get to Oklahoma City and a Women’s College World Series. Before the Bulls could win their NBA titles, they had to first get past the roadblock of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Cowgirls did just that in a 13-10 slamfest that had multiple lead changes, big hits from a plethora of players and a big display of mental toughness from Logan Simunek to survive in the circle to earn the win.
Then, OSU finally stamped out the Tulsa threat on Saturday to break down the wall that had been blocking it for the past eight years. Along with that mark, another feat was topped as the Cowgirls beat the Golden Hurricane for three-straight times for the first time since a four-straight streak from 2010-2012.
I know this Golden Hurricane squad didn’t have Emily Watson in the circle, but freshman Chenise Delce is a rising star who had one-hit OSU back in March, as well as beat Arkansas twice. In other words, they were still a formidable opponent and tested the Cowgirls to their limits, but unlike recent years, OSU won.
It has a tall task in defending champion and No. 4 Florida State in the best-of-three series starting Thursday, but the Cowgirls have already exorcised one demon. Oklahoma might be OSU’s biggest rival, but before Phil Jackson could lead the Bulls past Magic Johnson’s Lakers, he had to get past the Bad Boy Pistons.
The Cowgirls have done that. I don’t know if there will be a Jordan shot (Samantha Show home run) to send OSU to Oklahoma City, but time and time again, this team has answered the bell. Whether it was against Texas, Texas Tech or Tulsa, when the chips were down, this team proved it had something to say and now that it has finally rid itself of one of its biggest problems, who knows how far they can go?
The comparison to the Jordan Bulls might be a stretch, but the philosophy is still there. Before Peyton Manning could win the Super Bowl, he had to beat Tom Brady. The Red Sox had to beat the Yankees first to get to the World Series and break the Curse of the Bambino.
The Cowgirls have finally gotten past Tulsa, now let’s see what they can do with it.
Jordan Bishop is a sports reporter for the Stillwater News Press and can be reached at email@example.com.