By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor softball’s season ended Saturday afternoon at the Women’s College World Series.
The Lady Bears held off the Oregon celebration with a four run fifth inning before eventually falling 7-4 to the Ducks at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla.
With low expectations from the outside world, Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said that his team changed the season’s narrative from the onset of the season and although the result wasn’t was he hope for in the end, he is incredibly proud of the fight his team showed all the way until the very end.
“Not many people thought we had — I think we were voted to finish fourth in the Big 12, so this team overcame a lot, and they became a dang good team, very respected by everybody across the country, and it was because of hard work and paying the price and getting to this point,” Moore said. “But it’s great to be in the World Series. It’s the first time for us not to win a game in the World Series, so that’s difficult to deal with, but we’re here and a lot of people aren’t. Very proud of this bunch.”
Sophomore Gia Rodoni (18-4) got the start in the circle for the Lady Bears, mixing her screwball, rise ball and changeup to keep the Ducks scoreless through the first.
But Rodoni wouldn’t last longer, as she ran into trouble against the Ducks in both the second and third innings before giving way to senior Kelsee Selman.
Following two singles and a stolen base to open the frame, a wild pitch put the Ducks on the board first. It was then third baseman Jennifer Lilly that delivered the key hit with an RBI double the wall in left field.
In the third, Oregon got two more singles and a wild pitch to put runners on the corners with just one out. This time, it was first baseman Mia Camuso who delivered a two-run double that hit off the wall in left field, giving Oregon a 4-0 lead and knocking Rodoni out of the game.
The Ducks added a run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by center fielder Shannon Rhoades before Baylor strung together its final serious rally.
Leading off the fifth, freshman shortstop Taylor Ellis took a drop ball off the foot and then benefitted at second base thanks to a missed call by the second base umpire on an infield single by junior catcher Sydney Christensen. Baylor then took advantage of an error on the Oregon second baseman that threw wide of third base trying to get Ellis at third. Instead, Ellis scored and both runners moved up to second and third.
The Lady Bears then got an RBI groundout from senior third baseman from Lindsey Cargill and RBI singles from sophomore outfielder Kyla Walker and junior first baseman Shelby Friudenberg to cut the deficit to 5-4.
Walker said the team’s ability to comeback in all three games against Arizona helped the Lady Bears remain confident that they could once again come back from the dead against Oregon.
“Even though we went down, we were still in this game,” Walker said. “We believe in each other that — we went down in like the third, fourth inning so we still had so many at-bats that we could turn around, and even at Arizona we were down but we still had three more at-bats so we could turn it around, and we did, so I still believed that we could.”
Oregon did its best to try to kill the rally and it did so by adding two more runs in the top half of the seventh off Selman on Camuso’s second two-run double of the game.
However, the fight that Baylor showed against Arizona and all season long showed up one last time in the bottom half of the seventh.
Baylor loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk from freshman right fielder Maddison Kettler and singles from Cargill and Walker forcing Oregon to go to the bullpen and bring in its closer, Megan Kleist.
Despite the rally, Kleist got the job done getting two strikeouts and a weak groundball back to her in the circle to officially bring Baylor’s season to a close.
The loss marks the conclusion for seniors Selman, Cargill, infielder Riley Browder and second baseman Ari Hawkins. In her final outing, Selman tossed 4 1/3 innings allowing three runs on five hits with three strikeouts. Hawkins was hitless in three plate appearances and Cargill had one hit in three appearances while driving in one run.
Cargill, who made her second career trip to the Women’s College World Series, said that she leaves the program with four extremely valuable years and has high hopes for the program as it moves forward without her and the other seniors.
“I can say that this program has taught me a lot for the future,” Cargill said. “It’s very emotional right now because I am so proud of every single team that I’ve played on during my four years, and this year has been awesome just with this team, and I’ve learned a lot from Coach Moore and the coaching staff, and I’m just excited to see what the future has for them.”
Baylor finished the season with a record of 48-15.