By George Schroeder | LTVN Executive Producer
Coming off a rebuilding season, Baylor softball has found the “puzzle pieces they were missing,” according to fifth-year senior outfielder McKenzie Wilson. This is in part to a deeper roster, a promising offseason and the drive to compete putting those pieces together.
“We didn’t make it to postseason [last year],” Wilson said. “That’s the goal, that’s why we’re here at Baylor; to win a national championship.”
Baylor ended last season with a 4-0 shutout win over urge University of Nevada, Las Vegas at the National Invitational Softball Championship. Head coach Glenn Moore said it was a good way to end the year, and the taste of success may have been exactly what the team needed to kick off summer conditioning.
“I think the fact that we went to that tournament, gave us a few extra weeks of work, and then it ended the year on a positive note, which motivated them to work hard in the offseason,” Moore said.
That tournament win wasn’t the only offseason motivator for the team, according to Wilson. Last year, the Bears didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament.
“As we were watching the selection show, and our name wasn’t called, for me, it made me angry if I’m being completely honest,” Wilson said. “I think a lot of people that were in there — the team from this past season — it made them angry too.”
That fire has spread, and junior infielder Shaylon Govan — a transfer from Stephen F. Austin State University — said she noticed, and this season it will be time to deliver.
“We have to make NCAA tournaments, like that’s the least that we have to do,” Govan said. “They have definitely made it a priority, that that’s what we’re going to do. I think we’ve been working very hard to get there.”
The Bears have seen changes in their offseason that will make that goal more achievable. A fresh roster has multiple players lined up for the same spots, and Wilson says the competition is only making them better.
“There’s people out there and it forces me to compete, right? I have to be at the top of my game, every single practice,” Wilson said. “There’s no, ‘McKenzie, you can slack off today.’ That isn’t a thing.”
Defensive play is more consistent and the team has more speed in the outfield, according to Moore. A big area of focus was the infield, and with some new faces, he thinks they’ve strengthened those positions as well.
During the offseason, Baylor added sophomore infielders Amber Toven from Arizona and Presleigh Pilon from LSU to the roster and the coaching staff has confidence in both of them.
“Ironically, they both played travel ball out in California together, so they had some chemistry going there,” Moore said. “We’re not really sure exactly which one will be short and which one will be second, probably a 50-50 toss-up with the coaches when we start voting.”
The team also gained freshman pitcher RyLee Crandal, a promising player who strengthens the lineup for her position.
“She’s done nothing but improve since she’s been here,” Moore said. “Not only with velocity but ball movement, and she’s really hard on herself, high expectations. We really have seen her dominate some hitters at times.”
With the added competition, Baylor’s starting nine won’t be an easy call for the coaches to make. Moore said that isn’t a bad problem to have.
“The fall is an exciting time because you can move players around and try different things,” Moore said. “So obviously, finding a combination that you really liked to put out there, getting closer to that group of nine that you want to put on the field is important.”
The Bears just wrapped up their Green and Gold World Series, a competition held among the team, which closes out their fall events. The spring roster and schedule have not been released yet, but check here for the latest updates from the diamond.