By Cody Soto
No. 7 Baylor softball held its own for six innings against No. 2 Oregon on Thursday night. However, the Ducks pulled together a three-run seventh inning to put the game out of reach as the Bears dropped the 4-1 loss at Getterman Stadium.
Junior pitcher Heather Stearns had seven strikeouts during the top 10 matchup, but the starter allowed 10 hits before being pulled three batters into the seventh inning. Sophomore pitcher Brooke Seneshen took the mound shortly thereafter and gave up one hit in the Thursday night brawl.
This is the first loss of the season for the Bears (9-1) while the Ducks (11-0) remain perfect heading into the remainder of the 2015 Baylor Invitational this weekend.
“We knew they were a good team coming in,” head coach Glenn Moore said. “I thought our girls were prepared, played hard. We played head-to-head with them for six innings, but they’re a very good team. We grew up a little bit tonight and we’ll get better from it.”
In front of 1,455 fans sporting black T-shirts, Stearns struck out the first two batters at the plate before Oregon’s Jenna Lilley batted a double to get on base. Junior first baseman Sarah Smith bobbled in the final out for the Bears to end the top of the first inning, but the Bears experienced its own share of difficulties at bat.
Stearns started out the second inning the same as the first, striking out the first two hitters before allowing a single to put a Duck on base. Smith came to the rescue again, giving the Bears another chance to crack open the game.
“When you get past the fifth inning and you’re head-to-head with them, then we could have had a chance,” Moore said. “You can’t make many mistakes; Oregon will make you pay for them.”
Junior designated hitter Linsey Hays and Smith both ended their run at first base before sophomore second baseman Ari Hawkins pounded a single to keep the offense alive. Hawkins was caught stealing second base and sent the Ducks back to the dugout, leaving the game scoreless through the first two innings.
In the top of the third inning, senior shortstop Jordan Strickland made a crucial throw to first base after the Ducks loaded the bases with a player at bat. The team dodged a bullet, but the Bears still couldn’t develop an offensive rhythm at the plate for the quick 3rd inning.
“My only play was at first base, so I did everything I could just to get it there,” Strickland said. “I didn’t know her speed but I was trying to get that out.”
Things got exciting in the fourth inning. Oregon’s Hailey Decker slammed the ball across center field for the solo home run to give the Ducks the 1-0 lead over Baylor. The Bears quickly answered the score with a run of their own after sophomore left fielder Lindsey Cargill batted a triple to make her way around the bases to put the Bears into scoring position.
Hays brought in Cargill for her 17th RBI of the season to tie up the game 1-1 heading into the top of the fifth inning. Both teams would not budge for two innings, but the tide quickly turned after a home run from Oregon’s Janie Takeda brought in three runners ultimately to decide the game.
Baylor’s efforts in the bottom of the seventh inning wasn’t enough to put a runner on base, and the Bears were retired in order for the ballgame.
“This is a game to build off of,” Strickland said. “We did a lot of great things, and sometimes you get knocked down, but that’s just to build you up even higher. We’ll be fine.”
The No. 7-ranked Bears will quickly get back into action in the Baylor Invitational at 4:15 and 6:30 p.m. today as they host North Texas and No. 25 Tulsa at Getterman Stadium.
To finish the weekend, Baylor faces the No. 2-ranked Ducks for the second time and Abilene Christian at 4:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday respectively.