Softball ready for Top 25 showdowns in weekend tournament

Senior pitcher Gia Rodoni throws out a pitch on Feb. 9 in a game against Northwestern State. The Lady Bears swept the Lady Demons in their opening series, and Baylor will head to Hattiesburg, Miss., to take part in the Black and Gold Tournament this weekend. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Editor

By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor

After a sweep last weekend over Northwestern State at Getterman Stadium, the road gets a lot more difficult for Baylor softball.

The Lady Bears travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., for four games in three days as part of the Black and Gold Invitational hosted by Southern Mississippi.

This is the first of 11 road trips that Baylor will make this season, so the Lady Bears will have to get used to travelling and playing away from Getterman Stadium. However, the heavy travel isn’t deterring the team’s mindset, according to sophomore pitcher Goose McGlaun.

“We’re excited to get going. First road trip is always nice and see how everything plays out,” McGlaun said. “We’re excited to get to know each other better on this road trip and of course on a bus; it’s always fun to hang out with each other.”

The Lady Bears will square off against two teams ranked in this week’s USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Poll. Baylor will take on No. 24 McNeese State today and No. 9 Alabama on Sunday with a doubleheader against Mississippi Valley State and Southern Miss sandwiched in between.

Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said the tournament is the perfect opportunity to test his team early on and see what its capable of.

“It’s an elevation in talent, RPI and strength of schedule here for the most part,” Moore said. “We will certainly get tested. We’re in the process of growing this team, so it will be a great weekend to see where we are and where we need to go from here.”

Taking on the McNeese State first means that Baylor will face off against a familiar face in its opener. Dani Price, who worked on Moore’s staff as the volunteer assistant coach for four years, now coaches for her alma mater, the Cowgirls. On Saturday, Moore will take on the host Golden Eagles, led by his former player at William Carey, Wendy Hogue.

Moore said that he will change the signals for the games, but only as a confidence boost for his players and not for fear of sign stealing.

“We have a signal system that there’s no way to pick it. So we’ll probably use that,” Moore said. “Dani [Price] isn’t about that anyway. We’ll do more so for our confidence than for hers. Dani is a fine coach and a fine person, and you don’t have to worry about any of that. But psychologically for your team, I think you change the signals anyway.”

Baylor will look to keep its offense swinging at a high rate. The Lady Bears put up 20 runs, pounded out 30 hits and hit .411 as a team. Junior leftfielder Kyla Walker led the team with six hits, while senior centerfielder Jessie Scroggins had five while each scoring five runs. Senior first baseman Shelby Friudenberg drove in a team-high seven runs, and McGlaun was responsible for five.

McGlaun credited Walker and the top of the lineup for setting the stage for the middle of the lineup to produce runs.

“I thought we came out hard, our table setters set the table, and our power hitters were able to bring them in,” McGlaun said. “I think that’s something we’ll build on for this weekend.”

From a pitching standpoint, nobody in the country was better than junior Gia Rodoni. Rodoni tossed a five-inning no hitter and struck out 11 in the Lady Bears’ 8-0 opening win. She also pitched an inning of relief, striking out the side while allowing an unearned run.

Behind Rodoni will be junior Regan Green and McGlaun, who both got victories in their opening starts against Northwestern State, but Moore expects both to elevate their games this weekend.

“I want to see them working ahead in the count, fewer three-ball counts, just probably relax a little bit more especially with Regan Green. She’s got a game under her belt, relax a little bit more. Clearly we felt that everything that was lacking is something she’s shown before and she can do. So it’s just a matter of getting comfortable for her,” Moore said. “[McGlaun’s] got to get the off-speed. She throws as hard as most anybody we’ll see this weekend and the ball goes down well. But if you time it, you’re just going to let that speed help you to hit the ball a long ways. Off-speed is the key to keeping the hitters’ timing off, and she’s got to develop that.”

With some familiarity from a coaching standpoint and ranked opponents in the other dugout, Baylor will learn a great deal about itself and the team it can be moving forward.

But with all the team’s experience, including that of senior third baseman Caitlin Charlton, the Lady Bears aren’t afraid of a challenge—they embrace it.

“It’s always good to play those top ranked teams. It shows you where you’re at, what you need to get better on and it’s just great to have some good competition,” Charlton said.

Regardless of the competition, the expectation remains the same—win every game.

“We’re looking to win all our games there, hopefully go out, have a strong showing and come out undefeated after this weekend,” McGlaun said.

No. 11 Baylor (3-0) will meet No. 24 McNeese State (4-1) at 4 p.m. Friday.