Softball rallies late but falls short to Sooners in Big 12 Tournament championship game

Sophomore Goose McGlaun fires back for a pitch against the Sooners on March 29. Courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor

Baylor softball may have won its first Big 12 Tournament championship if not for Oklahoma senior outfielder Nicole Pendley.

Pendley hit a two-run double in the first, a three-run home run in the third and was responsible for driving in five of Oklahoma’s six runs, as the Sooners knocked off the Lady Bears 6-4 to win the 2018 Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament.

Oklahoma needed the offensive help from Pendley Sunday afternoon as Baylor was able to get to senior Paige Lowary, who entered the contest having only allowed eight earned runs in 70 innings this season, but was tagged by the Lady Bears for four.

Oklahoma defeated Baylor junior Gia Rodoni (22-12) for the third time this season. After getting to her early, it appeared that the Sooners were well on their way to another title.

After Rodoni retired the first two Sooner hitters in the bottom of the first, she walked freshman designated player Jocelyn Alo. Junior infielder Shay Knighten then reached on a throwing error by sophomore third baseman Goose McGlaun, allowing Alo and Knighten to move to second and third base.

On the very next pitch, Pendley turned on a rise ball up in the zone, middle of the plate and blasted it to left-center field for a two-run double, giving Oklahoma a 2-0 lead.

Baylor cut the deficit in half in the third, as senior first baseman Shelby Friudenberg singled to left, scoring sophomore shortstop Taylor Ellis, who had singled to open the frame.

Oklahoma wasted little no time getting that one run back and more.

Similar to the first, it began with a walk to Alo. Knighten then singled to left, putting two on with one out.

Pendley stepped into the box and this time around blasted a three-run shot just out of reach of senior center fielder Jessie Scroggins’ glove, putting the Sooners up 5-1.

Lowary would settle in to retire Baylor in order in the fourth and get a double play ball to work around a one out error in the fifth.

But it was in the sixth inning that Baylor began making its move off the big left-hander.

Scroggins led off the inning with a single down the left field line. Junior outfielder Kyla Walker fell behind 0-2 and fouled off three tough pitches from Lowary before drilling a ball over the head of the right fielder, who was pinched in and playing shallow. Walker went for a triple and cut the Baylor deficit to 5-2.

Friudenberg stayed patient and drew a walk as Lowary began to bounce around the zone. McGlaun then brought a run in on a fielder’s choice groundout, just beating the attempted double play relay throw to first base.

Senior catcher Carlee Wallace, who had doubled off Lowary back in the second inning, took a pitch off the neck and back of the helmet, putting two base runners on with one out.

Lowary caught sophomore second baseman Nicky Dawson looking at strike three.

The first pitch to sophomore third baseman Maddison Kettler went between the legs of Oklahoma senior catcher Abby Wodach, advancing both the Baylor runners.

Kettler then singled to center, scoring one. Lowary was then able to retire freshman designated player Hannah Thompson to end the inning.

Oklahoma got one back for Lowary in the sixth as junior infielder Sydney Romero hit an RBI single to right that McGlaun had a beat on, but then lost in the sun.

With a 6-4 lead, Lowary went back out to finish what she started in the circle. She retired Ellis on a groundball to shortstop. Scroggins then rolled one down to first base for the second out.

Swinging at the first pitch, Walker hit a chopper back to Lowary in the circle and she flipped it across to first to wrap up the 2018 Big 12 title.

Baylor finished 1-2 in the 2018 Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament, but showed signs of promise with a 7-1 win over No. 2 Oklahoma State and a hard fought loss to the Sooners.

Baylor (36-16) currently sits at No. 16 in the RPI, but it will have to wait until Sunday’s Selection Show to find out whether it will host a regional next weekend.

The 2018 NCAA Softball Selection Show airs at 9 p.m. Sunday night on ESPN2.