By Max Calderone | Sports Writer
Baylor softball has never been to the Women’s College World Series in back-to-back years, but head coach Glenn Moore is looking to change that.
“That’s a big goal of ours,” Moore said. “We want to do a little better than we did last year.”
Though the Lady Bears will be without two of its biggest contributors from last season, Lindsey Cargill and Kelsee Selman, Baylor is still ranked No. 10 in the preseason polls.
The Lady Bears bring back a combination of power and speed with sophomore pitcher/infielder Shelby “Goose” McGlaun and junior outfielder Kyla Walker complementing junior pitcher Gia Rodoni in the circle. Also returning is senior center fielder and defensive wizard Jessie Scroggins.
Last year, McGlaun hit 11 home runs, which tied for the team record alongside senior infielder Shelby Friudenberg. Walker led the team with 89 hits and posted a .418 batting average, second behind Cargill.
Scroggins was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. She said she recognizes the importance of having an experienced roster.
“We have a lot of returners,” Scroggins said. “It’s very valuable, because they’ve been there before so they know what to expect and we know how to prepare to get back [to the WCWS].”
Though Selman anchored the pitching staff with 24 wins and a 1.86 ERA in 47 appearances, Rodoni was just as dependable, picking up 18 wins in 34 appearances with a 1.72 ERA. She has very high expectations for herself and her team in 2018.
“Lead my team back to the World Series, win a Big 12 Championship and just win at all costs,” Rodoni said.
The Lady Bears also added three transfers in the offseason, all from SEC schools. Junior pitcher Regan Green comes to Waco from Mississippi State, senior catcher Carlee Wallace played previously at Auburn and sophomore infielder Nicky Dawson appeared in the WCWS last year with LSU.
Moore said he expects all three of the newcomers to have an immediate impact in their first year at Baylor.
“Our immediate ones [to contribute] are the transfers with Carlee Wallace behind the plate, Regan Green adding pitching depth and Nicky Dawson at second base,” Moore said. “All three of them will contribute to our success.”
Baylor will be tested throughout the 2018 season, with games against No. 2 Florida, No. 8 LSU and No. 11 Alabama in three separate preseason tournaments. The Lady Bears will also play No. 18 Michigan, No. 19 BYU and No. 22 Louisiana.
Moore says a tough schedule is a good thing and can only help the team achieve its long-term goals.
“Non-conference is vital right now,” Moore said. “The state of our conference is trending upward, but if we just rely on our conference RPI, we’re not going to get where we need to be at the end.”
The Lady Bears will travel to Hattiesburg, Miss.; Fullerton, Calif.; Lynchburg, Va.; and Baton Rouge, La., as part of their pre-conference schedule. Baylor will play 32 of its 51 games on the road this year.
Moore said, though not intentional, a heavier road schedule can be beneficial in the long run.
“It just worked out to where we needed to travel to play the teams that we needed to,” Moore said. “I think traditionally we’ve been a pretty good road team. I also do think it prepares us for the postseason and makes us a little tougher.”
Baylor will open Big 12 conference play with defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Oklahoma in Waco on March 29-31 in a battle of two 2017 WCWS teams. The Lady Bears were picked to finish second in the Preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll behind the Sooners.
The toughest conference road test will come in mid-April, when the Lady Bears will travel up to Stillwater, Okla., to take on No. 24 Oklahoma State.
With the season set to begin, players, coaches and fans alike are excited to see the Lady Bears back in action.
“The only thing I want to see is just our team having fun,” Rodoni said. “We’ve had a great offseason, we’ve had great scrimmages, so I’m excited to see us put it all together.”
Baylor opens its 2018 season at home against Northwestern State at 6:00 p.m. today. The Lady Bears will then play a doubleheader on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. and the second game set to begin at 4:30 p.m.