By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
No. 13 Baylor (42-12) went to Oklahoma City looking for two things: a Big 12 Championship and aspirations of rising to the top eight in the Rating Percentage Index (RPI), a tool used to determine the top teams based on wins, losses and strength of schedule.
The Lady Bears entered the weekend at No. 10 in the RPI rankings but would need to jump two spots to No. 8 to earn an opportunity to host a Super Regional if they were to advance beyond Regionals.
Baylor received help from No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 9 Tennessee, who both lost in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The Lady Bears were unable to capture a championship as Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State 2-0 to win the Big 12 Championship. Baylor will have to wait to hear their fate during the Sunday’s NCAA Softball Selection Show
Baylor did however, capture third place in the Big 12. After dropping its opener to the No. 3 seed Oklahoma State, Baylor bounced back to beat No. 5 Iowa State 4-0 Friday evening and No. 4 Texas 7-0 on Saturday.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said that despite the disappointment of not winning the Big 12 title, he expects the team to be rewarded by the NCAA Selection Committee.
“Although we are disappointed in a third place finish, I believe we ended up sending a strong message to the national committee,” Moore said. “We expect to see Waco as a host site when the tournament field is announced tomorrow night.”
In Friday’s opener, the Cowgirls put pressure on senior pitcher Kelsee Selman (21-8) early and often, chasing the 1st Team All Big 12 selection in the third inning.
In the second inning, Oklahoma State put runners on second and third but were unable to scratch across a run.
However, in the third, the Cowgirls got three hits and built a 2-0 lead thanks to a Baylor miscue and an RBI single from senior designated player Kristen Reasnor.
The Lady Bears cut the lead in half in the fourth inning with an RBI double from junior catcher Sydney Christensen.
Baylor had plenty of chances to strike against senior pitcher Brandi Neeham (19-8). The Lady Bears put the leadoff batter on base every inning against the Cowgirls, including in the fifth when sophomore outfielder Kyla Walker tripled into the right field gap, but were unable to take advantage of the opportunities.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said his team just couldn’t buy a key base hit.
“I can’t remember ever having that many opportunities to win a game and not doing it,” Moore said. “We couldn’t buy a timely hit and it cost us a chance to play for the championship.”
Sophomore Gia Rodoni took over for Selman in the third, working out of jams in the third and fourth innings to give Baylor a chance. She allowed five hits in 4 1/3 innings while striking out three.
Baylor bounced back to in its second game of the tournament, knocking off No. 5 Iowa State 4-0. The Lady Bears got a supreme effort from Selman (22-8) in the circle and relied on the big bat of junior first baseman Shelby Friudenberg, who launched two home runs.
Selman worked her way effortlessly through the Iowa State lineup, retiring the first 14 batters before allowing a two out single in the fifth inning.
The Cyclones managed just two other base runners, one on a single and the other on a walk in the sixth, but Selman retired the side with no further damage.
Selman struck out five in the game.
The Lady Bears got off to a faster start offensively, striking first with an RBI double from Christensen in the first inning, putting Baylor up 1-0.
Friudenberg did the rest of the work. The Bruceville native put the Lady Bears up 2-0 with a solo home run to right center field in the third inning and followed it up with a two-run home run to right in the seventh inning.
Senior third baseman Lindsey Cargill added two hits for Baylor.
In the third place game Saturday, Baylor overcame another slow start offensively but used a five run fifth inning en route to a 7-0 win over Texas.
Both Rodoni and Selman were sharp in the circle for the Lady Bears, combining for the two hit shutout. Rodoni went the first five and retired the first 10 Longhorns’ hitters before allowing a single to Texas senior shortstop Devon Tunning.
The only other hit for Texas was a leadoff single by senior infielder Mickenzi Krpec in the fifth inning. Rodoni would strand her at first base.
Freshman outfielder Maddison Kettler got Baylor on the board with a one out RBI single to right field in the fourth inning. The Lady Bears added a second run thanks to a Texas miscue.
Walker’s bases clearing double to right field opened the game up for Baylor, putting the Lady Bears up 5-0 and giving them the offensive boost they needed moving forward.
Freshman infielder Shelby McGlaun added a two-run home run in the fifth inning and Selman came in to nail the Texas coffin shut for good.
Baylor will be in good shape to host the Regional round beginning Friday at Getterman Stadium with a possibility of moving up to be in position to host the Super Regionals.
The Lady Bears will find out their fate when the NCAA softball championship bracket is announced at 9 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.