Kenny Gajewski accepts who Miranda Elish is when she steps onto a softball field.
Even when things are not going well, Gajewski, OSU’s softball coach, watches as Elish finds a way to maintain her emotions and continue to compete.
In her two starts against Kansas this past weekend, Elish allowed three home runs in the early innings, only to pitch clean innings for the remainder of the contest.
“(Elish) is really good when she gets settled in,” Gajewski said. “It’s like she needs something to make her upset. She needs something to get her going. I wish it wasn’t like that, I wish it was easier but it’s a grind. And she knows how to bounce back without letting it affect her. ”
Following an early pitching tumble, Elish does not only bounce back in the circle, but uses the later opportunities in the batter’s box to overcome the adversity.
It is not common for a productive No. 2 pitcher to also bat cleanup in the order, yet Elish does so with conviction and a steadfast mentality.
“I like hitting and pitching both,” Elish said. “If I’m not pitching well, then I can pick myself up and help my team while hitting. I can’t carry one into the other though. If I’m doing well pitching it doesn’t mean I’m going to be hitting well. I just have to separate the two, but I’ve been doing it for a while. ”
After allowing four runs against Kansas on Thursday, Elish picked up her bat and drove in five runs, including a three-run shot over the center field batter’s eye. It wasn’t the first time this season that Elish initially floundered in the circle, and says she needs to fix the often lousy tendency.
“I have a habit of starting out slow and gaining momentum as I go,” Elish said. “It’s something I need to work on. But our team is great and they pick me up instantly. I just have to stop (giving up home runs), it’s annoying me. ”
Elish was not always a praised left-handed power hitter by coaches, as an inherent right-handed person, she grew up as a right-handed slapper. During a slump in eighth grade, Elish’s father forced her to switch to batting left-handed in a last ditch attempt to improve the quality of her play.
“My dad said, ‘I can’t watch this anymore, you’re just going to bat left-handed and if you’re bad it would at least be because you’ve never done it before,'” Elish said.
To complete the trifecta of hitting, pitching and fielding, before games Elish can be found at shortstop, taking ground balls and making throws to first base. Although she does not take part in the field during games, Elish persists in asking Gajewski daily if she can be allowed to during a game, to which his answer is always a stern, yet joking, “no.”
Infielder Sydney Pennington and outfielder Chelsea Alexander recognize Elish’s natural arm strength in the field before games, but say her smoothness at the position needs improvement.
Many around the OSU softball program believe the source of Elish’s success as a dynamic athlete with a well-rounded repertoire partially comes from her high-octane personality.
“She’s a tough competitor, she brings it every time she goes out there,” Alexander said. “Getting to know her has been really fun. She’s just as goofy and energetic on the field as she’s off the field. She’s a hoot, she’s crazy and she’s funny. ”
Ahead of a three game series against No. 16 Texas, the Cowgirls expect Elish to be at the top of her game and handle the emotions of softball – especially considering the circumstances.
Elish once donned the burnt orange of the Texas Longhorns, but after the abbreviated 2020 season, she was nowhere to be found in the realm of college softball. The former national player of the year at Texas took a year and a half away from the game, before transferring to OSU for the 2021-22 season.
Although some specific motives for the break are known by those within the Cowgirl softball clubhouse, Gajewski said Elish became disenchanted with softball.
“She fell out of love with softball, that’s the big issue,” Gajewski said. “When you fall out of love with something you devote a lot of time into, it’s not fun. For whatever reason she made a really good personal decision to get away. That’s not easy. It’s much harder and it takes way more guts to walk away then it does to hang on. I credit her for walking away at the top of her game. ”
While brushing off other’s concerns of the moment, Elish said playing her former team for the first time will “just be another series” for her. Those close to her on the team are confident in Elish’s abilities to remain stable at the moment.
“She’s going to have some emotion, but it’s a big series for her,” Alexander said. “I don’t see her being anybody that she isn’t. She knows who she is and she plays with that confidence. ”
With all the changes during Elish’s life in the past year, Gajewski commends her choice to return to the sport as a proven two-way star on the hopeful Cowgirl softball team.
“I think she’s fallen back in love with softball again,” Gajewski said. “She’s enjoying every moment of the journey. There’s still a lot of tears, there’s still a lot of laughs and it’s real. Her biggest problem is she wants it too bad, and I love that. ”