By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Once again with its season on the line, Baylor softball turned to junior Gia Rodoni to lead the Lady Bears on.
Needing to survive McNeese State in order to earn a berth in Sunday’s regional final with Texas A&M, Rodoni summoned her postseason magic, tossing her second no-hitter of the season and third career NCAA Tournament no-hitter in a 6-0 win.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said that Rodoni has more than earned her dominant postseason reputation.
“That’s why I call her ‘postseason Gia.’ It is hard to throw a no-hitter anytime this season because hitters are so good, and that was a fantastic lineup that she beat tonight. Again, I just know how difficult it is. If you look across the country at no-hitters, you don’t see that many anymore, so that is pretty special,” Moore said. “Now that she has done it three times, two last year and once this year, that gives us all the more confidence in her. When she’s on, she is very good. I have said all along that when she has the changeup locating where she wants, she can beat anybody in the country.”
After getting five runs on six hits off Rodoni Friday afternoon, the only base runners the Cowgirls were able to must came via the walk.
Rodoni allowed a one out walk in the third and then the Cowgirls loaded the bases with one out in the fourth after a hit by pitch and back-to-back free passes.
However, Rodoni got a strikeout and a pop up to end the inning.
Rodoni said keeping the Cowgirls off balance, especially with her changeup was the key for her in the circle.
“I really had to focus better on locating, especially because on the previous day they were hitting me around pretty good,” Rodoni said. “My changeup I would say was the difference today. Granted the opposing team has seen it several times, I just knew that was the pitch that I was going to be successful with, so I just put all of my confidence in it. It helped me out a lot.”
On the offensive end, it was the seniors, outfielder Jessie Scroggins and first baseman Shelby Friudenberg leading the way. Scroggins had three hits and drove in two runs while Friudenberg had two hits.
“I think it is just more of our approach. Some days we like to be more patient because we can be over aggressive, and some days we aren’t aggressive enough. I think today it was a mixture of both,” Scroggins said. “Since we had seen (Alesxandra Flores) before, we knew that taking more pitches would help us be more effective against here, and then scoring runs when we were in scoring position. I think we did a good job of that today.”
Baylor got off to a fast start, scoring one run off of Flores in the first.
Junior outfielder Kyla Walker led of the inning with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Scroggins then singled to center, scoring Walker for a 1-0 lead.
Scroggins said it was a huge boost for the Lady Bears to score first after falling behind 5-0 early to the Cowgirls on Friday.
“It was very important because they did strike early yesterday. Today we wanted to do a better job of striking first against them, and I think that was the difference in the game. We came out more aggressive, we didn’t take as many pitches, and we jumped on them like we were supposed to,” Scroggins said.
Scroggins brought in sophomore second baseman Nicky Dawson with an RBI double to left field in the third, as Baylor grabbed a 2-0 lead. Friudenberg made it 3-0 in the fourth on a sacrifice fly and freshman catcher Hannah Thompson added a sac fly in the fifth as the Lady Bears led 4-0.
Baylor tacked on two more insurance runs in the sixth.
Friudenberg singled and Walker came in to score on a throwing error by the Cowgirls, one of four defensive mistakes they made on the afternoon.
Sophomore outfielder Maddison Kettler added a sacrifice fly later in the inning, scoring Scroggins and putting Baylor up 6-0.
Rodoni was then able to retire McNeese State in order in the sixth and seventh to complete the no-hit shutout, including collecting two of her nine strikeouts.
Baylor (38-17) will now take on Texas A&M at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Davis Diamond in College Station. The Lady Bears need to win to force a decisive final game with the Aggies.
“It’s a big mountain. We are going to see how well we are conditioned. You have to find a way to fight through the first one. When you even it up, then the pressure changes and you have a little momentum,” Moore said.