Maddox Thomas couldn’t watch.
A childhood dream shared between the 15-year-old and her sister Mackenzie was so close to becoming reality, the nerves were almost overwhelming.
Despite traveling all the way from Claremore to Tallahassee, Fla. — a nearly 15-hour drive — with her parents to see Mackenzie, the Oklahoma State catcher, and the Cowgirls softball team take on defending national champion Florida State in a Super Regional, she could do nothing but hide her face from the action.
By her own estimation, Thomas witnessed not even five of the 17 pitches thrown in the bottom of the seventh inning.
It was almost as if JoAnne Graf Field at the Seminole Softball Complex had become the set of a horror film, and the suspense was figuratively killing the future high school sophomore.
“My nails are so short because I was so nervous,” Thomas said. “I’ve never been more nervous. I was more nervous than Mackenzie, I bet.
“I was in my mom’s arms saying, ‘Tell me what’s happening.’”
Luckily for Thomas, this supposed horror flick left off with the most satisfying ending imaginable.
A Women’s College World Series berth for the Cowgirls.
“It was one of the best moments of my life, and I wasn’t even on the field,” Thomas said.
Needless to say, it was a joyous reunion when Thomas and her parents greeted Mackenzie after the momentous victory that sent OSU to the sport’s biggest stage for the first time since 2011.
Mackenzie was described as having “the biggest smile on her face.”
Not only because her dream of playing in the WCWS was coming to fruition, but also because a longtime goal of Thomas’ was finally within grasp.
“My sister has always said, ‘I just want to sit in those family seats and get a Fathead of you,”” Mackenzie Thomas said. “So whenever we won and I went out to meet my parents and give them hugs and stuff, the first thing she said was, ‘Oh my gosh, Kenzie, I get to sit in the seats and get a Fathead.’”
Fathead is a brand name of life-sized, precision-cut vinyl wall graphics and head cutouts.
“My mom just went to the store to get it,” Maddox Thomas said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to sit in that family section and cheer her on. I want to follow in my sister’s footsteps and make my own path. She’s just been such a leader to me, and she’s made me want to do big things in my life.
“It’s such a great feeling just to be in this situation.”
That won’t be the only new experience Maddox Thomas experiences at this year’s event, which began on Thursday at USA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
The Thomas sisters have attended the WCWS every year for the past decade or so, and 2019 is no different.
Only this time one of them will be on the field.
Maddox Thomas admits she’ll have to adjust her snacking habits to compensate for her sister’s absence.
“I can’t be like, ‘Hey, go get me some peanuts or something,’” Maddox Thomas said. “But we can cheer her on and know she’s on the field.”
Although there will be many OSU faithful in the state’s capitol for the Cowgirls’ championship run, Brett Thomas, the siblings’ father, will be satisfied regardless of the result.
For the man of the family, it’s not about wins and losses. It’s about having the time of his life watching his daughter succeed in accomplishing her goals.
“I almost get emotional talking about it,” Brett Thomas said. “Our next goal is to get Maddox there. Maddox is, in my opinion, a better hitter than Mackenzie, and I didn’t know if she’d be as good a catcher, but she has developed into an awesome catcher.
“To see the success from both of them is unbelievable.”
Mackenzie Thomas’ athletic achievements already supersede her parents’, and she has continually added more accomplishments to her resume through her junior season.
The pair’s mother, Traci Thomas, played softball at Northeastern State, while Brett Thomas, an Inola High grad, competed in football at the same university.
“She’s been Academic All-Big 12 for two years, and the only reason it’s not three years is because she wasn’t there in the fall semester her freshman year,” Brett Thomas said. “She graduated in three years and was accepted into (a speech pathology program).
“Her accomplishments compared to ours are mountains to molehills, I think.”
Although still early in her preps career, Maddox Thomas faces the burden of living up to her family’s athletic legacy.
She is well on her way to crushing that pressure, though.
The underclassman routinely played third base for Claremore High last season, biding her time while waiting for senior Alexis Williams to graduate, leaving the catcher spot vacant.
Maddox Thomas is expected to fill that slot this season.
Oh, and she was named to All-District 5A-3 as a freshman last season, helping the Lady Zebras to a 16-17 record.
“If I just work hard like my sister did, I think I’ll be OK,” Maddox said. “My dad was a really good athlete growing up, and my mom was a great softball player, so that makes it a little tougher, too.
“There are some big shoes to fill.”
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series evaluating Claremore alum Mackenzie Thomas’ journey with Oklahoma State softball to the Women’s College World Series. Part 1 is available online at claremoreprogress.com.