By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
No. 21 Baylor softball was supposed to have a routine Saturday contest against the University of Kansas. The possibility of inclement weather on Sunday altered the schedule, as the teams decided to play the final two games of the series as a doubleheader on Saturday.
The Bears didn’t appear to be bothered, as they took down the Jayhawks in both contests by a score of 3-1 in the first game and 4-0 in game two. Since Kansas won 2-1 on Friday, Baylor’s two victories Saturday secured the series win at Getterman Stadium.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore and his squad have been without the services of two pitchers — junior right-handed pitcher Aliyah Binford (season-ending knee injury) and sophomore right-handed pitcher Ava Knoll (shin reaction) — for nearly a month and a half now. So, Moore’s bullpen has been depleted for awhile, since it only has three listed hurlers left on the roster.
It sparked an all hands on deck situation for the rotation. All three pitchers saw action in the first game, with junior right-handed ace Dariana Orme coming in as the closer and recording her second save of the season in the first game.
Approximately 30 minutes after being the closer, Orme stepped back into the circle to play her traditional role as a weekend starter out of the pen. She flourished in both roles, allowing zero runs on just two hits across eight total innings. Orme walked one batter in the second game and totalled five strikeouts between both outings. She amassed 97 total pitches after flinging 80 pitches in Friday’s loss.
Orme said she was in a groove over the weekend and her defense stepped up behind her, particularly in the series finale.
“I thought I was on but I only had three [strikeouts in the second game], so that means my teammates were back there working their butts off to get those outs,” Orme said. “I think it was all of us that were on today.”
Orme (11-4) earned the win in that second game, while freshman right-handed pitcher RyLee Crandall (9-4) was given the nod in the first contest. Crandall gave up three hits, walked a lone batter, struck out none and allowed one unearned run in 5.1 innings of work.
When it looked like KU might have the chance to take advantage of Baylor’s limited bullpen, the green and gold only allowed six hits and one unearned run across the two Saturday matchups.
“I said after the game to the girls that we did some things situationally that paid off, whether it was taking an extra base or getting a sacrifice fly,” Moore said. “We got a little soft slap by Presleigh Pilon and just made some things happen. We were a little frustrated with our short game, our bunting and making contact at the right contact spot. We did a little better job at that today.
“We didn’t do a great job early, but we made adjustments and ended up producing more because of it. We didn’t swing the bat as well as I’d like. I’m not sure how much I need to attribute to their pitching, but we were up there fighting.”
The Bears scurried out to an early lead in the first game. Junior outfielder McKenzie Wilson got on base with a leadoff walk before sophomore infielder Amber Toven doubled to left-center. With runners on second and third, sophomore first baseman Shaylon Govan was intentionally walked, which loaded the bases. Junior catcher Sydney Collazos was able to reach first base on a fielder’s choice and bring Wilson home from third.
Baylor retired the Jayhawks in order for the second-straight inning and loaded the bases once again in the bottom of the second. With two on, Wilson knocked a sacrifice fly to deep center field, which brought in another run.
Kansas didn’t get its first hit until the top of the fourth, as Crandall and the Bears’ defense continued silencing any potential threat. The Jayhawks did scratch across their only run of the game in the top of the fifth thanks to a single up the middle. The run was unearned as it came courtesy of a Baylor error.
The Bears added one more run of insurance in the bottom of the fifth to give them the 3-1 edge, along with the victory.
Baylor wasted no time to get on top in game No. 2, as junior utility Emily Hott made her way around the diamond after a leadoff double in the second inning. Hott was plated off a fielder’s choice and KU error.
The Bears applied more offensive pressure in the bottom of the third when back-to-back walks and two stolen bases put runners on second and third base with only one out. Collazos recorded her second RBI of the day (had one in the first game) with a sacrifice fly to right field. Toven then scored from third base via a wild pitch during the next at-bat, putting Baylor ahead 3-0.
The green and gold cashed in on its final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth after a bases loaded threat due to an error, a hit batter and a single. Sophomore infielder Presleigh Pilon was the one who smacked the RBI single up the middle to plate senior outfielder Josie Bower and give the Bears a 4-0 lead.
After not mustering anything in the top of the fifth, Kansas was able to load the bases in the top of the seventh, on its last leg. Orme and the defense forced a strikeout, fly out and fielder’s choice to erase the Jayhawks’ threat and end the contest in favor of Baylor, 4-0.
Collazos said the team knew how important these two games were moving forward. The Bears only have one home non-conference contest in the next 19 days, so she said the group wanted to utilize its home-field advantage going into the road swing.
“We didn’t let it intimidate us or make us anxious,” Collazos said. “We took it as a challenge. We were excited coming into today and we won. Even though it was long and tiring, we played great as a team.”
Baylor will head to Knoxville, Tenn., for the Tennessee Invitational, which is scheduled to run Thursday through Friday. The Bears will face off against No. 4 University of Tennessee and Mercer University twice, for a total of four games played.
The first contest will come against Mercer at 11 a.m. Thursday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville. Baylor will then face the Volunteers shortly after, with first pitch set for 4 p.m. that same day.