By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor softball waited nearly the entire 30-minute Selection Show to finally hear its name called.
But when it did, the Lady Bears were more than happy with the result as Baylor earned the No. 15 national seed and will host the regional tournament beginning Friday at Getterman Stadium.
For senior third baseman Lindsey Cargill, the team’s leader in batting average at .459, the opportunity to play at home is huge, especially considering the team’s 24-2 overall record at home.
“We were all nervous. We were getting our phones out every single time, just waiting and waiting,” Cargill said. “Last year, we didn’t get what we wanted. It’s very exciting to see this team be able to host and play at our ballpark again. I’m excited, as a senior, to get to play there one last time.”
The last two seasons, the Lady Bears have needed to sweat it out and found themselves on the wrong end of having to travel to Louisiana-Lafayette in 2015 and Eugene, Ore. to take on the No. 5 national seed Oregon Ducks.
The Lady Bears last hosted the NCAA Regional tournament in 2014, the same year they advanced to the Women’s College World Series.
In order to avoid the same disappointment of the last two years, head coach Glenn Moore said that the committee sent a clear message that the non-conference schedule needed to be much tougher.
“For us, we wanted to host, we didn’t want to travel,” Moore said. “You really have to strengthen your non-conference schedule, and we did that purposely this year. At times, I questioned whether I over-scheduled a little bit, because we’re in somewhat of a rebuilding mode, we thought. But, the girls really stepped it up this year and played that schedule really well and gave themselves a chance to host.”
The possible over-scheduling included opening the season in Tucson, Ariz. in the Hildenbrand Invitational, where the Lady Bears played Fordham, Tulsa, and No. 10 Arizona, all whom made the tournament bracket.
The Lady Bears also traveled to Fullerton, Calif. and participated in the Judi Garman Classic, knocking off four ranked opponents in Arizona State, Michigan, Washington and UCLA, the latter two received top eight national seeds, placing them in position to potentially host the Super Regional round if they were to advance beyond this upcoming weekend.
The Lady Bears also went on extended road trips in Florida and Louisiana where they knocked off Louisiana-Lafayette and took two of three games from the University of Central Florida.
The schedule paid off for Baylor as the Lady Bears are now well tested, but the road through the regional round is far from clear-cut. Baylor will take on Kent State (32-26), winners of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The Golden Flashes are led by senior infielder Maddy Grimm, who leads the team with a .340 batting average and power in her bat with 19 home runs and 55 runs driven in. Junior infielder Holly Speers and senior pitcher Ronnie Ladines also have long ball capabilities — hitting 14 and 11, respectively.
Ladines is also the ace of the pitching staff, posting a 19-14 record with a 1.88 Earned run average (ERA) 210 strikeouts in 231 innings of work.
In the other semi-final game will pin Oregon State (28-25) against James Madison (50-6). The Beavers boast wins over Utah, Washington and UCLA in Pac-12 conference play while the Dukes have wins over Missouri, Oklahoma State, South Florida and Auburn, all who have spots in the NCAA Tournament.
JMU might also have the best two-way player in America in junior Megan Good. At the plate, Good is more than just average, hitting .399 with 12 home runs and 57 runs driven in. In the circle, she is an astounding 36-1 with sub one ERA at 0.48 with 255 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings of work.
Needless to say, Baylor will not be overlooking anyone in its regional. If the seeds hold up, the Lady Bears are in position for a potential rematch with Arizona in the Super Regional, something that senior pitcher Kelsee Selman (22-8, 1.45ERA) and the rest of the Lady Bears have been itching all season for.
“We were pretty pumped to see the Super Regional too,” Selman said. “I think when we faced them, it was the beginning of the year and we were just getting to know each other. We played a really great game against them and so I think that Super Regional would be super fun, but first we have to get past Kent State.”
Oregon State and James Madison will kick the regional off at 4 p.m. Friday with Baylor and Kent State dueling at 6:30.
The winners of each game will then play at 1 p.m. Saturday.