RyLee Crandall, Aliyah Binford lead Baylor softball to UCF series sweep

Junior right-handed pitcher Aliyah Binford (41) totaled 13 strikeouts on the weekend, adding to her Big 12 lead. Camie Jobe | Photographer

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

“Four” was Baylor softball head coach Glenn Moore’s magic number going into the weekend.

Moore said four wins would put the Bears (25-18, 8-13) in a good spot for the postseason, and they went ahead and got three out of the way.

Baylor capped off a series sweep of UCF with a pair of wins in a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon at Getterman Stadium. The Bears won the series opener 2-1 on Friday before winning both Sunday contests by a score of 1-0.


The two teams agreed to play a doubleheader on Sunday due to bad weather in Central Texas on Saturday.

The conference sweep marked Baylor’s first of 2024 and first since sweeping top-five Texas at the end of last season. The Bears entered this weekend on a four-game losing streak, and the Knights (26-18, 10-11 Big 12) had won 12 of their last 13 outings, including 10 straight.

“Where we’ve been and knowing how well they’ve been playing, [the sweep is] huge, mainly for our confidence,” Moore said. “These are games we knew moving out of the more difficult part of the Big 12 schedule that we were matched up well enough to win some.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re going to win, especially when you have a depleted bullpen. I think the weather helped us out yesterday to give RyLee [Crandall] another day off. Then Aliyah [Binford] came back and threw one of her better games.”

Junior right-handed pitcher Aliyah Binford and sophomore right-handed pitcher RyLee Crandall combined to pitch three complete games for the Bears on the weekend. Binford (8-9) allowed just one earned run on seven hits across her 14.0 innings of work. She pitched the entire series opener on Friday and hopped back in the circle for all seven innings of the second game on Sunday.

Binford totaled 13 strikeouts — nine on Sunday — in her two outings, and she said it was “really great for both” her and Crandall (12-7) to have effective performances.

“Honestly, for our pitching staff as a whole, just being able to see that — yeah, we’ve been put through the wringer [by] constantly pitching — but being able to pull a sweep out like that is just amazing to see,” Binford said.

Moore has been forced to rely on Binford and Crandall to carry the load in the circle this year, as the Bears are still nursing several injuries in the bullpen. Senior right-handed pitcher Dariana Orme, a 2023 NFCA All-Region First Team selection, hasn’t pitched since Baylor’s 10-9 neutral site win over Notre Dame on Feb. 22.

Orme was the Bears’ ace last year, and she was named to the USA Softball Top 50 Player of the Year Watchlist ahead of the 2024 season. But now the burden falls on Binford and Crandall, who each shut out a UCF offense that totaled 27 runs in a series sweep of Houston last weekend.

“They were really good,” Moore said. “Three complete games, how often have you seen that this year? That’s been our nemesis. We haven’t been able to close games out in many instances. It’s been a very frustrating time for them to maybe not have their best stuff and fight through lack of run production.”

Baylor’s offense combined for just four runs on 14 hits this weekend, but it was enough to secure the series sweep. The Bears also stranded 13 runners in the first game on Sunday, which Moore said isn’t ideal.

“I don’t think we’ve played a season that we can leave runs off the board if we can help it, but having said that, I think in most of those situations, we had quality at-bats that just led to outs,” Moore said. “It wasn’t like we wasted an at-bat and left them there. It’s tough to get runners on in this game.”

Baylor scored its only run of the first game on a bunt single by senior outfielder Taylor Strain in the bottom of the second inning. The hit wasn’t ruled on RBI though, since the run was scored on a throwing error by UCF’s third baseman, marking the second error of the side.

The Bears mirrored that by scoring just one run in the second game, and this one came in the bottom of the fifth thanks to an RBI base hit by junior infielder Presleigh Pilon.

Crandall and Binford both silenced the Knights the rest of the way in both contests, and Baylor walked away with its series sweep.

The Bears will now travel into Mountain time to face Utah for a midweek contest. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Dumke Family Softball Stadium in Salt Lake City. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

Baylor hasn’t matched up with Utah (27-17, 7-11 Pac-12) since 2013, but it played in the Salt Lake City Regional in 2023. The Bears will follow the midweek contest with a three-game set at BYU from Thursday through Saturday.

“We need to keep winning [and] need to keep playing well,” Moore said. “And we just can’t be happy with this. … But to get three [wins this weekend], certainly can relax a little bit and hopefully that’ll help our performance out there. [We’re] going to face two opponents that are very good, have played some great ball.”

Michael Haag is a third year Journalism student from Floresville, a small town about 30 miles south of San Antonio. Haag is entering his third year at the Lariat and is hoping to continue developing his sports reporting skill set. After graduation, he plans to work on a Master’s degree in Journalism in order to one day teach at the college level. He does, however, plan on becoming a sports reporter for a publication after grad school.