By BEN JOHNSON
Several schools extended offers her way. Little did they know, they stood virtually no chance of signing her.
Stillwater was always home deep down in her heart. And starting in the fall of 2014, it will become her actual residence.
On Thursday, Tahlequah shortstop Randee O’Donnell made her longstanding commitment to Oklahoma State University official by signing her letter of intent with family and friends in attendance inside Tahlequah High School’s jam-packed cafeteria.
For O’Donnell, there was never a doubt in her mind that she would eventually sign with Oklahoma State after committing to the Cowgirls prior to her junior year of high school.
“My dad is from Stillwater and my mom attended school at OSU, and of course my grandparents are their biggest fans,” O’Donnell said. “So I attended many events at OSU and I always felt at home on campus. Everyone supports everyone there, and that’s what I want to be a part of.”
O’Donnell — who helped lead Tahlequah to its fourth straight state tournament appearance during the recently-concluded 2013 season — said Central Arkansas, Tulsa and Wichita State all gave her offers, but she never thought of beginning her collegiate career anywhere other than at OSU.
“After getting my offer from OSU, I never really considered going anywhere else,” said O’Donnell, who had a slugging percentage of .692 to go along with her .524 on-base percentage during her senior year.
“I knew OSU is where I was supposed to go. It always just felt like home.”
O’Donnell capped off her varsity career by logging a .442 batting average, 41 runs scored, 13 stolen bases and a team-high 45 runs batted in. All of that — with only 10 strikeouts in 150 plate appearances — led to All-State honors for O’Donnell.
“Making All-State is awesome,” said O’Donnell, who blasted a three-run home run in the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie and give Tahlequah 5-2 win over Chickasha in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament. The Lady Tigers were then eliminated by Carl Albert in the semifinals.
“It’s a goal I’ve strived to accomplish since my freshman year and achieving it is an amazing feeling.”
At shortstop this year, O’Donnell sported a .957 fielding percentage while helping turn seven double plays. She moved from second base to shortstop prior to the beginning of her sophomore year at Tahlequah.
As for her position at OSU, O’Donnell said he’s open to playing anywhere she’s needed.
“Positions haven’t really been talked about,” she said. “I plan on going to practice with an open mind to playing where the team needs me. Whether that’s infield or outfield, it doesn’t matter to me. Winning is the main goal.”
Q&A: Randee O’Donnell, Tahlequah shortstop
Randee O’Donnell has been a fixture in Tahlequah’s lineup since the day that she became eligible at the varsity level. During her four years as a starter, Tahlequah has won a regional championship and advanced to the state tournament every season. As a senior, O’Donnell led Tahlequah with 45 runs batted in out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order. She also had 21 extra-base hits (three home runs), 11 stolen bases, a .442 batting average, a .692 slugging percentage and a .524 on-base percentage. On Thursday, O’Donnell — an All-State selection — signed her national letter of intent to play college softball at Oklahoma State University.
How did you find out you were an All-State selection and what was your reaction?
I found out through a voicemail from (Tahlequah) coach (Matt) cloud. After hearing it, all I felt was relief because I had accomplished what I set out to accomplish.
You’ve been Tahlequah’s shortstop since your sophomore year, was there any pressure on you to perform at a higher level and pick up All-State honors your senior year?
I never felt pressure from anyone or because of anything. I put pressure on myself to be better than the previous year and I put the pressure on myself to make All-State.
What are your thoughts on your senior season? Are you satisfied with the way you went out or do you wish you all could have won a title?
Of course I wish we could have won a title, but I feel good about our season. It was the most fun season I’ve ever had at THS and I wouldn’t trade any bit of it. And I will always be thankful for the memories I made this year as well as the rest of my career at THS.
How much have you been looking forward to signing day?
I’m super excited about signing. I’ve been ready for this since I first verbally committed there. But even though I’m signing, it still feels unreal that I’m almost in college. Feels like I just started here at THS.
When you think of Big 12 softball, what does that mean to you?
Big 12 softball to me means dedication and great competition. There aren’t going to be any “easy games”. It’ll be a lot of work, but playing big 12 softball is a dream of mine that I cannot wait to be a part of.