By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Sophomore pitcher Gia Rodoni pitched her first no-hitter and the first no-hitter in Baylor softball post-season history when the Lady Bears defeated Kent State 1-0 in their regional opener.
Rodoni said she couldn’t help but soak up the feeling of throwing that first postseason no-hitter.
“It’s awesome just to throw a no-hitter in general,” Rodoni said. “It’s just a really good feeling.”
Rodoni (16-2, 1.75 ERA) kept Kent State off balance the entire game, mixing in curveballs, screwballs and changeups to invoke weak groundballs and routine fly balls to the Lady Bears’ defense.
Rodoni had a perfect game going into the sixth when she walked the leadoff batter. Following the walk, the Golden Flashes were unable to advance the runner and Rodoni took care of the rest in the inning.
Kent State threatened once more in the top half of the seventh as the Golden Flashes watched several extremely close pitches go by on full counts in order to load the bases against Baylor. With the game on the line, Rodoni was able to get senior catcher Brooke Dodson to foul out to left field to end the game.
Sophomore outfielder Kyla Walker delivered the game’s only run with a well-placed triple in the right center field gap. Attempting to throw out Walker, Kent State junior second baseman Vanessa Scoarste’s throw bounced short of third and into the Baylor dugout, allowing Walker to walk in to score.
Walker has shown time and time again how dependable she has been in key situations, so much so, that Baylor head coach Glenn Moore thinks she might be the best on the team in crunch time situations.
“Usually you say you want a big, strong hitter in the box when the game is on the line, but Kyla is my pick. She is a tough out,” Moore said. “She adjusts as good as anybody. She’s quick and puts pressure on people. She’s pretty special.”
Despite being held to one run, Baylor was not void of opportunities, especially early in the game. The Lady Bears put the leadoff batter on base in the first two innings, with senior third baseman Lindsey Cargill walking in the first and junior outfielder Jessie Scroggins reaching on a bunt single in the second.
However, both efforts were unable to create runs. Cargill was able to make it to third after she stole her 34th base of the season and after freshman shortstop Taylor Ellis singled to the shortstop in the second, fellow freshman, outfielder Maddison Kettler was gunned down at home plate to end the inning, keeping it a tie ballgame.
The fourth inning played was nearly identical to the second inning for the Lady Bears. Scroggins reached on a bunt single, her second of the game. She was then sacrificed to second by Kettler and swiped her 17th base of the season by taking third but was stranded.
The game appeared to be heading to the sixth inning scoreless as Kent State ace senior Ronnie Ladines had quickly retired the first two batters of the inning. Ladines then left one ball up in the zone and Walker did not miss.
“She left the inside pitch up, thank goodness” Walker said.
Ladines (19-15), who was the National Pitcher of the Week last week, seemed to be Rodoni’s equal in the circle. She allowed just five hits and the one run, which was unearned with two walks and two strikeouts.
Walker said that Ladines did a tremendous job keeping the Lady Bears off guard by using a heavy dose of drop curveballs and mixing location.
“The drop curve was really hard for righties to get on that pitch,” Walker said. “It was hard for slappers to drop the barrel to it as well. I think that was the toughest part and she was just moving in and out and the changeup was throwing us off too.”
Ladines admits that as the game went on, it became less about her own control and more about the adrenaline.
“I had a little bit of everything,” Ladines said. “But I think the adrenaline began to kick in because this is a once in a lifetime thing for us and being in regionals, you do everything you need for the team.”
Baylor (44-12) will now meet the region’s No. 2 seed James Madison University at 1 p.m. Saturday. James Madison (51-6) rallied for one run in the sixth and one in the seventh to knock off Oregon State 3-2 in Friday’s first game at Getterman Stadium.
The Bears will have to deal with the Dukes’ junior pitcher Megan Good, who boasts a 37-1 record on the season, including Saturday’s win over Oregon State.
Moore said he believes that Good and the Dukes are a complete team and present a stiff challenge.
“No surprises, they’re a good team,” Moore said. “She [Megan Good] is the real deal. They’re a complete ball club. They run a little bit, they can play the short game and knock it out of the park. It’s going to be a huge challenge.”
Baylor will counter with a healthy and rested pitcher in senior Kelsee Selman (22-8, 1.44), something that Moore hopes will pay dividends for the Lady Bears on Saturday.
“We didn’t have to show her at all and to have an extra day of rest, she’ll be ready to go,” Moore said.
Kent State and Oregon State will meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game. The winner of that game will meet the loser of Baylor and James Madison at 6 p.m.