No. 14 Baylor softball drops heartbreaking series finale to No. 7 Oklahoma State

Junior outfielder Taylor Strain (right) finished 2-for-4 at the plate with one run scored. Michael Haag | Sports Editor

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

If there were only 18 outs in softball, No. 14 Baylor would’ve swept the No. 7 team in the country this weekend.

But Oklahoma State used some late-inning magic once again to secure the series win with a 3-2 victory on Sunday afternoon at Getterman Stadium. The Bears (14-5, 1-2 Big 12) led or were tied with the Cowgirls (20-3, 2-1 Big 12) in 20 of 22 innings this weekend.

“I know the team that walked off that Oklahoma State bus on Friday has a lot more respect for us now that we showed up and played three games,” Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said. “We played well enough to win, but the game is not always kind to you, and it wasn’t today.

“It hurt a little bit, but we’ll get better from it.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Aliyah Binford (5-4) flung a complete game and one-hit a powerful Oklahoma State lineup through the fifth inning. The Cowgirls jumped on her with a run in the sixth and sealed the deal with two more runs on three hits in the seventh.

Binford, who started in Baylor’s 4-1 loss to the Pokes on Friday, allowed three earned runs on five hits, adding six strikeouts and three walks across 93 pitches on Sunday. She totaled 96 pitches on Friday.

Moore said he had sophomore right-handed pitcher RyLee Crandall ready to close if he needed it, but he thought Binford was limiting damage enough for the Bears to win.

“Whenever you got ground balls and nobody’s hitting her hard — [only] one or two hard hits — I think the right decision was made,” Moore said. “I just didn’t see any reason to go with [Crandall] at the time.”

Baylor was coming off a 2-0 shutout win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, a game in which Crandall one-hit the Pokes as part of a near-perfect complete game. That victory was the Bears’ first over the Cowgirls since 2019, and they still haven’t won a series over Oklahoma State since 2017.

Binford got some run support in the third inning after both teams went scoreless in the first two frames. Junior outfielder Taylor Strain, who has taken over centerfield and leadoff duties for McKenzie Wilson, opened the bottom of the third with a double to right center.

Strain moved to second when junior designated player Shaylon Govan was walked, and Strain tagged to third on a fly out by senior catcher Sydney Collazos. Facing an 0-2 count, senior outfielder Ana Watson ripped a single that popped off the third base bag, plating Strain for the first score of the game.

Following more quiet offense from both sides in the fourth, Govan tacked on another run for Baylor when she clobbered a 229-foot solo shot over the right-center field wall in the fifth inning. She said she sat on a changeup in the zone and that it’s hard to hit off someone like Oklahoma State graduate student pitcher Lexi Kilfoyl (9-2).

“A pitcher like her, it’s hard to pick what she’s going to throw,” Govan said. “Fight for your life, basically, is what you have to do.”

Govan’s bomb was only the second homer Kilfoyl has given up this season.

The Cowgirls trimmed their 2-0 deficit in the sixth when a fielder’s choice throw to home was late. That runner led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a successful bunt right after. A wild pitch by Binford moved the runners to third and second, respectively, which set up the score.

Binford and the defense managed to hold Oklahoma State to one run in the side, leaving Baylor with a 2-1 lead. The Bears couldn’t muster any offense in the bottom of the sixth, which put the Pokes at the plate to start the seventh.

The Cowgirls put themselves in position to tie the game when they got a leadoff double down the left-field line. The pinch runner moved to third on a groundout, and she was plated on another groundout, this one to second base.

The Pokes’ go-ahead run then got to first base on a successful bunt, and that runner got into scoring position by stealing second. A two-out single down the right-field line scored that runner and put Oklahoma State in front 3-2, giving Baylor one last shot to level things or walk it off.

Kilfoyl silenced the Bears though, as they went three-up, three-down, giving the Cowgirls the series win in the finale.

Govan said it was painful to lose heartbreakers on Friday and Sunday, but this three-game set gave the team more confidence moving forward.

“It just shows this team has everything that we need to be a top team in the country,” Govan said. “[Coach Moore] just made sure to tell us to not hang our heads and keep working hard and keep grinding and get back to where we need to be.”

With stellar showings from Crandall and Binford throughout the week, Moore said he has even more faith in his starting rotation as conference play is in full swing now.

“Obviously, not having Dari [Orme] available right now is a blow to us because she’s outstanding, but we have two that have really stepped it up, both of them,” Moore said of Crandall and Binford. “And even Kaci West when we needed her has pitched well.

“The confidence with the whole team is that the bullpen is going to give us what we need. We just have to score some runs [and] play defense.”

Baylor sticks around for a midweek doubleheader against Lamar, with the first contest set for 4 p.m. on Tuesday at Getterman Stadium. Both contests can be watched on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ or listened to on 101.3 FM radio.