By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor softball was not ready for their season to end.
Baylor senior pitcher Kelsee Selman once again showed why she is the ace of the staff and the Lady Bears used a four-run rally in the sixth inning off Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year senior Danielle O’Toole to force a decisive game three on Sunday night.
Selman said that she never questioned whether the Lady Bears would come back or not because she knew they would.
“It’s always frustrating. If somebody gets a hit, it annoys me. But especially if it’s giving up a lead. It’s really frustrating,” Selman said. “But the thing is, I know this team. They never surrender, like our motto. I knew they were going to come back. I had faith, and it happened.”
With one out in the sixth, junior first baseman Shelby Friudenberg got the rally going for Baylor when she laced her second hit of the game, a double to the wall in center field off of Arizona sophomore starter Taylor McQuillin.
Following the two-bagger, Arizona head coach Mike Candrea pulled his starter and put the ball in the hands of O’Toole, who was electric against Baylor in Arizona’s 3-2 win on Friday.
Saturday night, however, was a different story for O’Toole. Freshman infielder Shelby McGlaun a hit a slow chopper in front of the plate that she legged out for an infield single, putting runners at the corners with out. After a strikeout gave the Wildcats two outs, junior outfielder Jessie Scroggins hit a high chopper to the shortstop that she beat out for a single, bringing in Friudenberg from third base.
Baylor then sent junior catcher Sydney Christensen to the plate, who was hitless with two tries. After swinging through two changeups and fouling a few pitches off, Christensen rocketed a double down the left field line, tying the game at 4-4.
Even though she said she knew the changeups were coming, Christensen said they still weren’t easy to hit but after missing poorly on the previous two, she was ready for the last one.
“We knew going in that she threw a lot of changeups just from yesterday. I actually knew she was going to throw me a changeup first pitch, and I still whiffed really, really badly,” Christensen said. “But, I was in late-timing, which is where you’re expecting a changeup almost. She threw me a changeup, and I hit it pretty solid.”
Freshman shortstop Taylor Ellis completed the four run rally by hitting a sinking double that landed inches out of reach of a diving Wildcats’ redshirt senior left fielder Mandie Perez, scoring both Scroggins and Christensen.
Ellis said she had Christensen to thank for the confidence heading into her go-ahead two–run double.
“Me and Sydney [Christensen] had kind of had a conversation, and she said we have a thing when we’re hitting back-to-back – she’s hitting 8, I’m hitting 9 – it’s like, ‘OK, it’s 8 and 9 right here,’” Ellis said. “I know she has my back, I’ve got hers. When she got that hit, it kind of gave me confidence.”
With a two-run cushion heading into the seventh inning, Selman bared down, working around a leadoff single to record the final three outs and force a third game.
Selman (24-8) went the distance, allowing four runs on eight hits with six walks and five strikeouts.
Selman seemed to have better command of her pitches on Saturday then she did in the two innings she threw on Friday. She and head coach Glenn Moore also made a conscious decision to not let All-American senior third baseman Katiyana Mauga beat them on Saturday, walking her four times, including three intentionally.
Pitching with a lead also may have something to do with Selman’s confidence and command, as the Lady Bears spotted Selman a 2-0 lead through four innings.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Baylor got things going offensively with singles by Friudenberg and freshman right fielder Maddison Kettler. The Lady Bears then took advantage of a Wildcat throwing error to move the runners to second and third base. Scroggins high chopper in to center field, put the Lady Bears in front 2-0.
In the fifth, Arizona began to make its groove against Selman and freshman first baseman Jessie Harper, who played hero on Friday night, once again delivering the key hit for the Wildcats. With runners on second and third following a throwing error from Christensen, Harper laced a two-run double off the wall in right that missed clearing the fence by mere inches, tying the game at two.
In the sixth, Arizona kept its offensive momentum going, tacking on two more runs against Selman. Perez delivered the go-ahead RBI single on a ball that was just out of reach of a diving senior second baseman Ari Hawkins. Senior shortstop Mo Mercado added an insurance run with her RBI single to left, putting the Wildcats up 4-2.
Just as quickly as the game shifted in favor of Arizona in the fifth and sixth innings, Baylor refused to give in and came up with the clutch hits it lacked on Friday to keep the season alive.
O’Toole (30-5) took the loss after she allowed three runs on four hits in just 2/3 of an inning. She allowed only six hits, four of which were infield hits in seven innings on Friday.
No. 15 Baylor (47-13) and No. 2 Arizona (52-8) will now play a winner take all third game for a date with No. 10 Oklahoma in the Women’s College World Series. Game three is set for 6 p.m. Sunday and will air on ESPN.