By Joe Pratt | LTVN Anchor/Reporter
Baylor softball’s midweek matchup with Stephen F. Austin University proved to be a hitting and pitching clinic, dominating the Ladyjacks 8-1. The Bears have won eight of their last 10 games and look to keep building momentum in the home stretch of this season.
“It is so important that we play well in these midweeks headed in the Big 12 because you’re going to carry whatever momentum you have — or lack thereof — into that Friday game,” head coach Glenn Moore said. “That’s always a little bit scary because sometimes you try to use your bench out a little bit and knock out some rust.”
Sophomore Aliyah Binford proved her impressive versatility Tuesday night, showcasing her talent in the circle as well as in the batter’s box. The pitcher and infielder struck out two batters in the top of the first, and she followed her 1-2-3 inning with a two-run blast in the bottom half of the frame.
“She’s one of the best athletes we’ve ever recruited here overall, and I think we’ve seen glimpses of it and now we’re seeing it more often,” Moore said. “It was nice for her to kind of finally hit a ball that we see all the time in practice and in batting practice,”
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first, the offense kept the bats rolling with three more tallies in the second. Freshman infielder Kaci West led off with a double that hit the centerfield wall. Then sophomore catcher Zadie LaValley notched a single and stole second during the following at-bat, a rare feat. Sophomore utility player Emily Hott delivered with a two-RBI single through the right side. Binford grabbed her third RBI of the game with a single, making the game 5-0 after two.
The defense was also stout for Moore’s squad as it recorded no errors throughout all seven innings. Key plays, such as a diving catch from West at second and a relay from the outfield to the plate, held the Ladyjacks to one run. A ball that got to the wall scored one run for SFA, but a relay between sophomore centerfielder McKenzie Wilson to junior infielder Campbell Selman to LaValley prevented the second runner from coming home.
“I think we’ve got people in the right place now. Early on in the year, we took a little while to make the adjustments and find the right people for the right places,” Moore said. “Now that we’ve done that, we’ve done it long enough for them to get comfortable.”
The bats weren’t done yet, as the Bears added one run in the fifth by way of a West RBI-single, and two in the sixth. While Baylor fell behind in the inning, the team rallied with two outs started by the top of the lineup. Wilson, who scored three runs, walked for her third time in the matchup. Hott then walked and Binford knocked her third hit to load the bases. Junior outfielder Josie Bower walked in a run and sophomore outfielder Ana Watson capped off the scoring with an RBI single.
Sophomore pitcher Maren Judisch took care of the remaining six batters, keeping the Ladyjacks at bay with two scoreless outings. Binford concluded her night after a five-inning, four-hit, one-run effort. She was three for four with three RBIs and one run scored offensively. Binford said her success came off of some pre-game adjustments.
“I told myself I needed to stop swinging at the rise ball, but I was like, ‘I’m just going to swing at it one more time,’ and it went over and I was proud to hit it for my team,” Binford said.
The opportune hitting has come a long way for the Bears this season. Tuesday night, Baylor was six for nine with runners in scoring position. Additionally, seven players reached base during the contest.
“I thought earlier in the year we were very opportunistic with our at-bats in those situations, but we fell off badly over the last few weeks and have seen it come back slowly,” Moore said.
Baylor now looks ahead to two major conference series with Iowa State University and the University of Texas. Moore hopes his team will continue its momentum headed into its final regular season Big 12 games.
“We know it’s very important,” Binford said. “I expect this team to fight and fight and fight until we can’t fight anymore. Even then to keep fighting because we know what’s at stake, and that’s the cool thing about this team is we’re willing to play for each other and keep pushing.”