By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
With aspirations of hosting for a second straight year in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament, Baylor softball walked away from Sunday night’s Selection Show disappointed.
However, the Lady Bears are not too upset because they will not have to travel far, landing in the College Station regional hosted by the No. 15 national seed Texas A&M Aggies.
Senior outfielder Jessie Scroggins said that the outcome pretty much matched up with the expectation coming into the Selection Show.
“That’s exciting. I think a lot of people were anticipating that and a lot of people got what they wanted. We’ll just go down there and play Baylor softball,” Scroggins said. “We get to stay in Texas and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Junior ace Gia Rodoni (22-11, 2.11 ERA) said that she hopes that the short drive will serve as motivation for Baylor Nation to travel and support the Lady Bears.
“It’s just a short drive down the road and hopefully it will encourage our fan base to go down there with us,” Rodoni said. “We got sent to a good place, and a place we know we can compete with, so we’re not too mad about that.”
There will certainly be no surprises for Baylor in its first game. The Lady Bears will meet McNeese State, winners of the Southland Conference in the regional opener for the fourth time this season.
Baylor bested the Cowgirls 7-1 in Hattiesburg, Miss. back on Feb. 16. The two then split a Waco midweek series April 10-11 with the Lady Bears claiming a 10-2 win in the opener. The Cowgirls took game two, 7-3.
With the familiarity, Baylor head coach Moore said the scouting and preparation might be less intense than for other opponents, but that the Cowgirls are extremely talented and cannot be overlooked.
“It probably eliminates some of the scouting work that we would normally do against an opponent that we didn’t know as well as McNeese,” Moore said. “ They’re a good team and that has to be our focus right now. Last time we played them, came out on the bottom end of that game and we have to be ready for them. We know each other well so there shouldn’t be any surprises.”
Prior to Baylor’s 1-2 and runner-up finish in the 2018 Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament, the Lady Bears had won 10 of their last 11 games, including three straight conference sweeps.
Baylor also showed its resilience in battling back from a 5-1 deficit against Oklahoma in the title game, eventually falling 6-4. But the recent setback is not dampening any spirits; in fact the Lady Bears believe they are still playing their best softball of the season.
“I told the girls this after the Oklahoma loss in the Big 12 Tournament, ‘Everything you’ve done to this point is to prepare you for what lies ahead to the best of your ability. That was all first season and now this is second season and this is when it really counts,’” Moore said. “We’re in a pretty good position now, we’re playing our best ball and we know A&M is an outstanding opponent, but we have to get by McNeese State first and they’re good as well.”
On the other half of the bracket, Texas A&M (40-16) will meet Prairie View A&M (20-21).
The Aggies are one of nine SEC teams selected to host regionals. Florida (2-seed), Georgia (7-seed), South Carolina (9-seed), Tennessee (10-seed), LSU (11-seed), Alabama (12-seed), Arkansas (13-seed) and Kentucky (16-seed) will also host.
The Pac-12 claimed five hosting spots, as Oregon earned the top overall seed, UCLA claimed the third seed, Washington the fifth seed, Arizona State the eighth seed and Arizona the 14th seed.
Two-time defending National Champion Oklahoma earned the fourth seed and will meet Boston University in the Norman regional opener. Florida State of the ACC earned the last hosting spot, claiming the sixth overall seed.
Both Texas and Oklahoma State earned berths into the NCAA Tournament as well. Texas will open with Minnesota in Seattle, Wash. and the Cowgirls will open with Wichita State in the Fayetteville, Ark. regional.
But as Baylor, who advanced to the Women’s College World Series last season, tries to emulate and repeat its postseason success, it has just one thing one its mind—beating McNeese State on Friday.
“They know what to expect from us and we know what to expect from them. So it’s just going to come down to who executes the best,” Scroggins said.
Baylor (36-16) and McNeese State (40-19) will play the first game of the day beginning at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Davis Diamond. All games are available to stream on the Watch ESPN app and select games will be available on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.