By Joe Pratt | Broadcast Reporter
Kaci West had her eyes set on Baylor before playing a single high school softball game. The freshman pitcher and infielder committed to represent the green and gold back in eighth grade.
“When I stepped on the campus, it was just an unbelievable atmosphere,” West said, “I definitely went to other campuses and stuff, but nothing compared to Baylor [for] me. Everything was so welcoming, and I really liked how it was a Christian atmosphere, too. That’s really what set it on top of everything else, and just how it felt like home away from home here.”
Oftentimes, young athletes may commit to a university early, and new NCAA guidelines state that college coaches can begin reaching out to athletes starting June 15 after their sophomore year, or Sept. 1 of their junior year. Such rules weren’t in place at the time of West’s commitment. For a student athlete to commit to a program this early is rare, and their time before attending the school gives them the opportunity to weigh in on more options and possibly change their decision. But West maintained her path to Baylor throughout her four years at high school.
“I think the thing that drove me the most was that the coaches did take a chance on me because I wasn’t fully developed as a player,” West said, “They believed in me when I was that young … I know they’re still going to believe in me when I get older and so that kind of really drove me to work even harder because I owed it to them because they believed in me when I was still young.”
Head coach Glenn Moore’s trust in West paid off – on March 1 of this season, she tossed the first perfect game in Baylor softball history. The Bears won the game 9-0 against Prairie View A&M as West dealt for five innings while striking out five along the way.
“Right before the game, I just got through warming up and I was running into the dugout … I was just joking with [the trainer],” West said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna go through a perfect game’ … just joking around, nothing is actually going to happen. Then I actually threw it and then he came running out there like ‘you little stink you called that.’”
A week before the perfect game, West blasted a three-run walk-off home run against Loyola Marymount University. Not only does West shut down opposing offenses, she also contributes in the infield and in the batter’s box.
“She wants the ball, we recruited her more of a hitter and a defensive player than a pitcher,” Moore said, “I thought she would work into a three, four type pitcher for us and that’s probably where she is right now, but she’s certainly showing potential to to be a pitcher that we would throw against a good lineup.”
While the starters are up in the air for this weekend’s road trip to Norman, Okla., West aims to stun the No.1 ranked Sooners (26-0) in underdog fashion.
“I’ve always grown up with a dog mentality,” West said, “No matter who I play, we’re equal as soon as we step on that field, they still have to hit the same ball that we have to, they have to throw the same ball we have to. Don’t let the big name sit there and make you scared of them, just walk in there and just play your game.”