By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Playing on the road is nothing new for Baylor softball. The Lady Bears (18-4) have had just five games at Getterman Stadium this season, partially due to the nature of their schedule and partially due to weather cancellations.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said playing at home the last two weeks has been beneficial in helping his team recover physically, as the Lady Bears hit the road for one final non-conference weekend tournament.
“Having the weekend off was good and bad,” Moore said. “We were able to recover and especially after a long spring break, but you can’t go that long without playing at all. You have to face a really good pitcher then you have a tight game that we were able to pull out to send us on this road trip. It was valuable and we’re going to see good competition this weekend, so I think that prepared us adequately.”
Baylor will play four games, including Friday and Sunday matchups with North Dakota State (17-7) and a Saturday doubleheader with BYU (15-12) and No. 10 LSU (23-4) as part of the LSU Round Robin Tournament.
Saturday’s matchup with LSU will hold a bit more weight for Baylor sophomore second baseman Nicky Dawson, who transferred from Baton Rouge, La., after her freshman season.
“I’m going back home, that’s the biggest thing, so that’s exciting. LSU is a good team, it’s full of friends too, and just being back home, it’s exciting,” Dawson said. “It’ll be a good atmosphere. They always have a good crowd. They’re tough to beat at home, but I think we can hold them and put them down and hopefully get the W.”
Dawson appeared in 38 games with 13 starts for the Tigers in 2017, hitting .313, which was good for fifth on the team.
However, she has had an even bigger role for the Lady Bears in her first season in Waco. Dawson has started all 22 games at second base for Baylor after the departure of Ari Hawkins. Dawson is third on the team with a .379 average, is tied for second with 22 hits. She ranks second in runs with 18 and leads the team with a pair of triples.
Despite the emotional component, Moore said he expects that it won’t be a factor in Dawson’s play.
“A big positive is that we played LSU in the fall so she’s already been on the other side of the field from the team she started with,” Moore said. “She’s well-respected and that’s her home, so it’s always exciting to go home. I think she’ll do fine.”
Dawson has also been asked to step into the leadoff position in the lineup, sliding senior outfielder Jessie Scroggins to second since junior outfielder Kyla Walker went down with an ankle injury prior to the team’s spring break trip to California.
“It’s a new role definitely, but still being able to do some teams for the team is the biggest concern,” Dawson said. “It’s definitely different without Kyla, but with her back, we’ll start flowing again. She’s a key spot in our lineup, but the role I’ve taken is just trying to do what I can for the team.”
Walker returned the lineup in Baylor’s 2-0 win over North Texas on Tuesday, where she went one for two at the plate.
Moore said Walker felt good against the Mean Green and hopes to have her up to speed and back up near the top of the lineup, but isn’t sure if that will happen this weekend.
“I haven’t quite determined where I’ll put her in the lineup. She felt good after that game, so certainly will be a factor,” Moore said. “I want to get her back in the top of the lineup as soon as possible, but that’s something we have to kind of feel out with continuity of lineups being important and we’ve had this way for a couple of weeks now.”
In the circle, Moore will continue to rely on his ace, junior Gia Rodoni, to start against North Dakota State on Friday and LSU on Saturday. Rodoni is 11-3 on the season with a .164 ERA, tossing eight complete games and has posted four shutouts, including Tuesday’s win over North Texas. Opponents are hitting just .189 against her, but when she does miss her spots, they have made her pay to the tune of eight home runs.
Junior Regan Green will get the nod on Saturday against BYU. Moore said the time off for Green is a bit of a concern and that the bullpen may see some extra innings this weekend.
“She’s been off for two weeks, but our plans are to throw her against BYU, a pretty good lineup, so we’ll see how that goes,” Moore said. “Might have to use our bullpen a little bit more this weekend, which will prepare us for Big 12.”
No. 13 Baylor takes on North Dakota State at 11 a.m. Friday. The Lady Bears will take on BYU at 10 a.m. and LSU at 12:30 p.m. Saturday before concluding with North Dakota State at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.