OKLAHOMA CITY — For the third time in five seasons, Rylee Bayless finds herself playing for a softball national championship.
In 2015 and 2016, Bayless played a key role in Northeastern A&M’s drive to the NJCAA Division I Softball Championship in St. George, Utah.
Now she’s part of an Oklahoma State team that began play in the Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City on Thursday, May 30.
This is the Cowgirls’ first appearance in the WCWS since 2011.
They ran the table in their Stillwater Regional then upset defending national champ Florida State during last weekend’s Tallahassee Super Regional.
Oklahoma State, ranked 13th, opened against No. 5 Florida at 6 p.m. at the ASA Softball Hall of Fame Complex/OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City.
Top-ranked Oklahoma also is in the field, facing No. 8 Alabama at 8:30 p.m.
Other games on Day 1 were No. 3 Washington vs. No. 6 Arizona at 11 a.m. and No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 7 Minnesota at 1:30 p.m.
Other games are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then the top two teams meet in a best-of-3 championship finals Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (if needed) on ESPN.
A two-time All-American at NEO, Bayless — who did a complete rewrite of the Lady Norse record book —also was a two time recipient of the Dudley NJCAA Division I Softball Player of the Year and was the Most Outstanding Player at the NJCAA national tournament when the Lady Norse finished fifth during her sophomore season.
Bayless set an NJCAA record for hits in a career (251) and Lady Norse career records for home runs (42), runs (208), hits (251), doubles (52), RBIs (160), total bases (443), walks (81), batting average (.596), on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
A redshirt senior, she’s starting in the outfield for the Cowgirls (44-15).
Bayless earned first-team All-Big 12 honors and is on the Big 12’s academic all-conference second-team and the NFCA all-region second team.
She suffered a torn ACL early in the 2018 season.
She came back strong, hitting .318 with 54 hits and 53 runs scored while driving in 34 runs.
Bayless led the NCAA in walks (47) and walks per game (1.13) in 2017, when she hit .312 with 49 hits and 38 RBIs.
In 127 games with the Cowgirls, she’s drawn 122 walks, including a career high four times against Tulsa on May 17.
Bayless, who had the 32nd four-hit game in OSU softball history by going 4-for-4 against Iowa State. As a result, she was named a “Softball America” Top Performer, CS Madness Player of the Week and Big 12 co-Player of the Week.
She’s had 15 multi-hit games on the season.