By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor senior centerfielder Jessie Scroggins is no stranger to opposing Big 12 offenses.
The reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year has been flashing her glove and unleashing her arm for nearly three and a half seasons with the green and gold.
Scroggins patrols the outfield grass with great speed, chasing down fly balls in both outfield gaps. She’s even been known to rob a home run or two.
But her arm is just as good as her glove, catching runners who make a wide turn around base and throwing in behind them for the out. She’s made just four errors in her time at Baylor and hasn’t committed one since 2016, posting a career .987 fielding percentage.
But Scroggins can hit too. And in her senior season, she’s taken it to a whole new level.
Scroggins said her mindset has remained the same this season and her success has taken her by surprise.
“I didn’t see it coming. I’m just trying to have a good year and finish strong and just hope to stay over .500,” Scroggins said.
Scroggins has always been a mainstay in the Baylor lineup since arriving on campus before the 2015 season. She’s started all but three games and has a .357 career average, posting averages of .261, .356 and .352 her first three years.
But this season, Scroggins is the nation’s leading hitter, boasting a .515 average with 51 hits in 99 at bats.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said Scroggins has just continued to elevate her game each season she’s been here.
“She’s having a phenomenal year. Hitting a fast pitch softball is no easy task and you have less than a half second to respond,” Moore said. “It’s a phenomenal feat to hit at all, but to hit the way she’s hitting right now, she’s having an All-American year.”
Scroggins leads the team this year with eight doubles, but is without a homerun. She said she has relied a lot more on her bat control and speed to reach base in the past, but this year, she’s been more willing to swing away.
“I think this year I’ve been more aggressive and trying to go after better pitches,” Scroggins said. “I’ve been doing more bunting and hitting as opposed to just straight bunting.”
From a coaching standpoint, Moore believes its been Scroggins’ commitment to go with the pitch and her focus on the outside part of the plate that has allowed her to be so efficient this season at the plate.
“I think in small increments, it’s the outside pitch. She couldn’t hit the outside pitch a year ago, or for the first three years with any effectiveness. She’d get the bat on it, but that’s where she was pitched,” Moore said. “She hasn’t hit a home run yet, but that’s because all the pitches are going outside. She’s getting extra base hits and hitting really well there and not dropping the bunt as often as she did last year. I think it’s owning that part of the plate. When they start coming back inside, you’re going to see some balls leave the park.”
Scroggins has been consistent even against the best pitchers the Lady Bears have seen this season. In a 2-1 win over No. 9 Alabama, Scroggins was three for three at the plate and accounted for 60 percent of Baylor’s hits. She tallied two hits in four plate trips in a 5-3 eight-inning loss to No. 10 LSU. Then over the weekend against No. 2 Oklahoma, despite being swept, she had one of Baylor’s two hits against senior Paige Parker on March 29 and had one of the Lady Bears’ five hits on March 31.
As Baylor looks to grab their its Big 12 win this weekend as the team heads to Lubbock, the focus isn’t on Scroggins or her hitting — it’s about getting back to doing the little things and getting back to being Baylor softball.
“We’re just going to focus on ourselves and do the little things that we didn’t do last weekend and play Baylor softball,” Scroggins said. “We have to do the little things.”
No. 16 Baylor (21-9, 0-3) and Texas Tech (21-15, 1-5) open with a 6 p.m. first pitch tonight with game two at 4 p.m. Saturday and the finale at 12 p.m. Sunday in Lubbock.