By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
No. 21 Baylor softball ended the Lone Star Classic on a high note Sunday, beating No. 25 Mississippi State 10-6 for its first ranked win of the season.
Baylor went 2-2 in the opening two games of the tournament, splitting two games against Connecticut, beating Lamar and losing to Ole Miss. The Bears’ pitching was inconsistent in their losses, as they gave up a combined 17 runs to UConn and Ole Miss.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said the mixed results of the first two days drove the team to play better against Mississippi State, who was seen as the most daunting opponent for the Bears that weekend.
“Especially after a short night with our game against UConn, I challenged our pitchers and hitting crew,” Moore said. “They played very well, but there is certainly room for improvement. I’m really pleased with how we played today.”
Mississippi State center fielder Anna Kate Segars opened the game with a two-run homerun in the first inning, handing the Bulldogs the lead. However, it would be the only time Mississippi State had the lead for the rest of the game.
Baylor’s bats exploded in the bottom half of the first inning, putting up five runs to get ahead 5-2. Senior center fielder Nicky Dawson led the inning off with a single, extending her hitting streak to five games. Senior first baseman Goose McGlaun knocked Dawson in just two at-bats later with an RBI-single, the first of three RBI’s McGlaun would contribute.
“I’m seeing the ball really well, and sometimes that can be scary, because you want to hit everything,” Dawson said. “Coach Moore talks a lot about starting things off good and how that’s contagious. That’s my goal is to get on base, and hopefully that transfers from batter to batter.”
The inning got worse for the Bulldogs, as wild pitching allowed Baylor to score two more runs, taking the lead. Freshman catcher Zadie LaValley capped the scoring for the inning, hitting a double that scored two more. Moore was proud of the resiliency the team showed in the first inning to take the lead, especially after how the first two days of the tournament went for the Bears.
“In our postgame meeting, Nicky talked about how we constantly responded,” Moore said. “If they scored, we would come back and score and certainly took it personal in our backyard. We needed to see that out of this team. it’s early, and there was no reason to panic. But, we needed to have a good team come in here with the determination to beat us the way UConn did [Saturday] and Ole Miss on Friday, and we still step it up and defend our park.”
Baylor continued to hit the ball well in the second inning, driving in two more runs off off a catcher’s error and a McGlaun single, going up 7-2. Mississippi State answered in the third inning, hitting a pair of homeruns, scoring three runs. An RBI single in the fourth inning put the Bulldogs down by only one, 7-6.
After the four-run outburst in the third and fourth inning, Baylor senior pitcher Gia Rodoni replaced starting pitcher Sidney Holman-Mansell to close out the game. Rodoni was masterful, shutting out Mississippi State over the next three innings and only allowing four hits.
“I definitely didn’t want to have the feeling I had last night after losing [to UConn],” Rodoni said. “When I was put in, I knew it was going to be a team that needed to be shut down. I was just getting my mind right in the bullpen and went out there and carried the confidence through the three innings I had.”
Baylor added the final three runs of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, after beginning the inning with five straight singles. The quick run of singles gave the Bears an unassailable 10-6 lead. Moore was proud of the Baylor offense, who had struggled at times throughout the weekend to have consistent production, especially in their losses to Ole Miss and Connecticut.
“Lot of good production there at the top of the order, for sure, and some great at-bats throughout our entire lineup,” Moore said. “We run a pitcher early, then we saw their ace and were able to get her out of there as well.”
Baylor softball will be back in action on Thursday with a double-header against No. 9 Louisiana in Lafayette, La.