By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Donning green and gold, Baylor softball proved to be James Madison’s kryptonite.
For the second time in two days, Baylor found a way to beat junior ace Megan Good (38-3). Yesterday, it was a late inning homerun from junior first baseman Shelby Friudenberg, today, it was to let sophomore Gia Rodoni (17-2) pick up where she left off on Friday in the circle, as she threw her second consecutive post-season no hitter.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said what Rodoni has accomplished is truly remarkable, especially considering Sunday’s was against the nation’s leading team in hitting at .357.
“Phenomenal. You don’t see very many. Across the country there were five on Friday and none yesterday and to have her do two back-to-back is incredible,” Moore said. “She didn’t do this against a team that was happy to be here, she did it against a great hitting team and that makes it all the more impressive.”
The only base runners Rodoni allowed were a leadoff walk in the first and two hit batsmen in the third and seventh innings. However, the last one against Good gave James Madison a bit of hope before Rodoni and the defense put the game to rest.
On a 0-2 pitch to Good, Rodoni bounced a ball in the dirt that hit Good on the leg putting her at first with one out. The Dukes’ senior outfielder Taylor Newton then drilled the only real hard hit ball off Rodoni all afternoon back towards the wall in left center. Doing her best Willie Mays impression, junior outfielder Jessie Scroggins leapt into the wall, snagging the fly ball. Not only did Scroggins come up with the catch, she came up firing back towards first, nearly doubling up the runner.
Rodoni said that she remained calm during the deep fly ball because she has seen Scroggins make those types of plays in center field time and time again.
“I wasn’t that nervous,” Rodoni said. “I’m very confident in Scroggs, so I knew she was going to get there. I didn’t know how far it was going but I knew that she would be there to get it, so I wasn’t worried at all.”
This was not the first time that Scroggins came up big defensively for the Lady Bears. In the first, James Madison had its best scoring opportunity of the game. The Dukes had a runner on second when Scroggins caught a liner to center and made the runner at second pay for her aggressive base running as Scroggins came up and fired a missile to senior third baseman Lindsey Cargill who applied the tag to end the threat.
Moore said that she believes Scroggins fits into the mold of the best outfielders that have worn a Baylor uniform over his 17 seasons in Waco.
“She’s a phenomenal outfielder. We’ve had great ones that have played here over the years, with great speed and ability to read the ball off the bat. We play in a big park and it plays big. She ran them down and she’s fun to watch. The crowd loves her and she lives for that moment.”
After the snag from Scroggins in center, Rodoni collected herself in the circle and went back to work, seeking the final out. On a 0-2 pitch, Rodoni got James Madison freshman designated player Odicci Alexander to swing and miss at a pitch in the dirt, leading to ecstasy and celebration from Baylor on the field.
Cargill said the team is extremely confident heading into Super Regionals with the way that both Rodoni and senior Kelsee Selman are pitching right now.
“We have a lot of confidence in her [Rodoni] and Kelsee[Selman],” Cargill said. “We are really excited to play against Arizona and see what they can do against them. I know she can do really well and I’m excited to see that.”
Baylor put together some better swings on Good today than it did in Saturday’s 4-2 in, however, it was only able to manage five hits off of Good, who pitched in all four of James Madison’s regional games over the weekend.
The Lady Bears worked deeper into counts, forcing Good, who needed only 65 pitches to pitch six innings against Baylor yesterday, to throw 95 pitches. Baylor also got three free passes, although two were intentional, when she did not yield a walk on Saturday.
Baylor missed an opportunity in the first after Good retired the first two Lady Bears, senior second baseman Ari Hawkins reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Good fell behind 2-0 to Friudenberg and after giving up the go ahead three run home run to her on Saturday, elected to not risk another mistake and intentionally put her on. Good then retired the next hitter to get out of an early jam.
After a one out double in the second went wasted, the Lady Bears seized the opportunity in the third inning to bring in the game’s only run.
Cargill got the attack going when she laced a double to the gap in left center. Sophomore outfielder Kyla Walker then lined a base hit to left and took second on the throw to third. Good then tried to attempt to intentionally walk Friudenberg for the second time in the game when she threw one high and to the backstop that allowed Cargill to motor in and score from third, putting Baylor up 1-0.
Good said losing is never easy but on a bizarre play like a wild pitch makes the loss sting even more.
“It’s disappointing, “ Good said. “I just lost it.”
Not only did Baylor contain Good in the circle, the Lady Bears controlled her powerful bat. In two games against Baylor pitching, Good was 0-5 with a hit by pitch.
Good said that Rodoni had everything working for her in the circle, especially the off-speed pitches that kept them honest.
“She was doing a great job mixing it up well,” Good said. “She mixed her curves and changeup. The changeup really kept us on our toes today.”
James Madison head coach Mickey Dean said that Rodoni did a tremendous job in the circle, but he still believes that his pitcher, Good, is the complete package as a student-athlete.
“I’ve coached different levels, not just because she plays for me, but if I get first pick of any player in the country, I’m picking Megan Good,” Dean said. “She’s the best player in the country. She does it all. She hits, plays first, she’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever worked with at any level. She wants to be the best everyday.”
James Madison finishes the season 52-8 after going 2-2 in the Waco Regional.
No. 15 Baylor (45-12) now advances to the Super Regionals for the sixth time in program history and the first time since advancing to the Women’s College World Series in2014. The Lady Bears will get a rematch with the No. 2 national seed University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.
Arizona beat Baylor 5-0 on Feb. 11 as part of the Hillenbrand Invitational.
The Super Regionals are a best two of three and game one will be at 5 p.m. Friday.