By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
Who doesn’t love an underdog story? We see them all the time, like that one Cinderella team who defeats all odds and punches its name to fame. For Baylor softball, this is something the players see in themselves and pride themselves on as they head into the 2022 season.
“I think, as of right now, we are kind of looked at as underdogs in a way,” sophomore outfielder McKenzie Wilson said. “But I always say it’s cool to be looked at as the underdog because they never see you coming. You get to step on the field and they don’t really know what you have but you get to surprise people; You get to shock a lot of people and I think that is what we’re going to do this season.”
Being overlooked can lead to unexpected success, with opponents potentially coming into a matchup unprepared. Now in his 22nd season at Baylor, head coach Glenn Moore has seen it all. He sees parallels to softball teams that were disregarded past, and said it gives the group a chance to play with an intense personality.
“I’ve compared this team – I’ve been here a long time – to one of my earlier teams before we had any respect here or much respect in our program,” Moore said. “I think we were overlooked a lot, and this team could be one of those that flies under the radar a little bit.”
Those “under-the-radar” teams can become that annoying fly you can’t get rid of. Moore said he believes his squad, predicted to finish fourth in the Big 12, will embody a traditional style of play that will frustrate the opposition and give them a chance to compete.
“It’s certainly a hungry team, a team that’s got a lot of tools,” Moore said. “We have the ability to go back to more of our speed game. So this year, I think we can manufacture runs the old style, the way we did it back when we got here when we put pressure on defenses. Death by a thousand paper cuts, if you will. It’s just a team that’s going to be in your face all the time. That’s what I’m anticipating. I hope we can have that personality.”
A young and unnoticed team may not be ideal for an athlete to be a part of, but the chance to continually build into something special is invaluable. Such is the case for sophomore catcher Sydney Collazos who said she thinks the current team can turn some heads this season and in the future.
“I personally like having a young team, I’m a young player, but the reason that we’re all so comfortable with this is because the few older girls that we do have are great leaders and they’re so willing to put us on their back and carry [us] with them,” Collazos said. “I think that we are just going to keep gaining more and more experience so even though we’re young, we’re going to be here for longer and we’re just going to make a lot of damage, a lot of noise.”
To be able to contend as one of the eight best teams in the nation is no small feat. However, the Bears believe the Women’s College World Series is not out of sight and have their mind set on that, along with a Big 12 championship.
“I believe that this team can make it to [the] postseason and not only make it, but shock a lot of people, turn a lot of heads,” Wilson said. “Our goal is not just to make it to postseason, but it’s to make a run. It’s to get to the College World Series and so that’s where we’re at right now.”
Collazos also said those accomplishments aren’t too far-fetched.
“I know that we’re focusing on the Big 12 championship and not only making it to the postseason, but making a great run in the postseason,” Collazos said. “Making it to the world series is our ultimate goal and everybody is motivated enough and determined enough to make that happen.”
Moore said he embraces those big goals from his team, but doesn’t want them to steer from the importance of the journey ahead.
“I’m a believer that you keep that mountaintop in view, but you don’t – for lack of a better phrase – you pay attention to the trees in front of you first,” Moore said. “So, I’m OK with them keeping it there. I think our program has earned the right for players to come here with the expectation of going to the world series. But we’ve got a lot of trees in front of us right now, and we’ve got to get a lot better before we’re considered one of the best eight in the nation.”