In case you missed it: Baylor’s 2023-24 sports year in review

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling extended its win streak to 38 meets in a row, a mark that stretches back to 2021. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

Despite a lack of Big 12 Championships for any program as of May 2, Baylor Athletics kept it moving with another year filled with winning seasons. Here’s a glance at the best sports moments of the 2023-24 year, even though both golf teams, softball, baseball and track and field are still competing.

Both Baylor cross country teams land podium finishes at UIW Twilight

Baylor cross country opened its season with a pair of top-3 podium finishes at the UIW Twilight meet on Sept. 1, 2023, at the Classics Elite Soccer Complex in San Antonio. Junior Hayden Gold led the Bears with a second-place finish individually, and the women’s team tallied 33 team points to win the 4,000-meter title. Graduate student Ryan Hodge took charge of the men’s team, and they landed in the top 10 at No. 7, which pushed Baylor to a third-place finish.

No. 18 Baylor volleyball tops No. 19 Ohio State in five-set thriller

Then-No. 18 Baylor volleyball outlasted then-No. 19 Ohio State in five sets on Sept. 15, 2023, in the Ferrell Center. The Bears secured the 3-2 victory on the back of a fifth-set triumph. The Buckeyes rallied from a two-set deficit but suffered their sixth straight loss. This was one of Baylor’s two ranked wins in regular season play.

Blake Shapen returns, leads Baylor to historic 36-35 comeback win over UCF

Though it faced a 28-point deficit midway through the third quarter, Baylor football wasn’t ready to call it quits. The Bears scored 29 unanswered second-half points and defeated the UCF Knights 36-35 on Sept. 30, 2023, at FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Redshirt sophomore kicker Isaiah Hankins drilled the 25-yard game-winning boot to complete the largest comeback in program history.

Merrill’s two-goal game lifts Baylor soccer over Houston in season finale 3-2

Led by senior midfielder Ashley Merrill’s two-goal game, Baylor soccer capped off the season strong with a 3-2 win over new Big 12 competitor Houston on Oct. 23, 2023, at the Carl Lewis International Complex in Houston. The Bears clinched a spot in the 2023 Sprouts Farmers Market Big 12 Soccer Championship with the victory. Merrill’s two goals put her season total at 11, which marked the most from an individual player in a single season since Dana Larsen in 2012. Baylor’s nine wins at that point on the year was also the most since 2018.

Baylor equestrian upsets No. 5 Georgia 11-9 in spring home opener

Baylor equestrian knocked off No. 5 Georgia 11-8 for its first ranked win of the season on Jan. 27 at the Willis Family Equestrian Center. The Bears (2-6) started off dominant with a 5-0 sweep in Fences, as sophomore jumping seat Lauren Reid secured her second Most Outstanding Performer award of the season to that point.

Scott Drew awarded first-ever ejection as No. 18 Baylor men’s basketball tops No. 12 Iowa State 70-68

In 704 career games at the helm, then-No. 18 Baylor men’s basketball head coach Scott Drew had never been ejected. That changed in game No. 705 as Drew was awarded his second technical foul for stepping out of the coach’s box and asking for clarification on a previous call. Clarification he never received. Despite the ejection, No. 18 Baylor men’s basketball escaped with a 70-68 win over then-No. 12 Iowa State on Feb. 3 in the Foster Pavilion.

Baylor men’s tennis shows maturity, thrashes No. 5 USC 4-0

The Baylor men’s tennis team made sure it didn’t waste anyone’s time. The Bears — in front of a season-high 392 fans — made quick work of No. 5 USC by a score of 4-0 on Feb. 12 in the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center. For those who haven’t been inside the indoor facility, it’s difficult to fit 392 people in the fan section. Baylor (8-1) remained a perfect 6-0 at home with the victory, and it marked the 16th top-10 and eighth top-five win under Woodson, who’s in his fourth year leading the Bears.

No. 22 Baylor softball rallies back to defeat No. 19 UCLA, No. 13 Missouri

Then-No. 22 Baylor softball topped then-No. 19 UCLA and then-No. 13 Missouri to close out the Mary Nutter Classic undefeated on Feb. 25 in Cathedral City, Calif. The Bears came from behind in both games, and they walked-off the Tigers in game two in the bottom of the seventh. Baylor joined then-No. 1 Oklahoma as the only programs to go undefeated in the tournament. The Bears were 5-0 on the weekend, and they notched three ranked wins.

Mason Green deals as Baylor baseball earns series win over No. 23 Texas Tech

Despite St. Patrick’s Day baseball dealing with weather delays, Baylor mustered a storm of its own. The Bears secured their first series victory over a ranked opponent under head coach Mitch Thompson after taking the series finale over then-No. 23 Texas Tech 7-2 on March 17 at Baylor Ballpark.

Walker’s 28 leads No. 5 seed Baylor WBB to Sweet 16 in 75-72 win over No. 4 seed Virginia Tech

She may be the smallest on the court at times, but 5-foot-7 junior guard Jada Walker had the biggest impact on March 24. Walker poured in a career-high 28 points — highlighted by a crucial and-one layup with 19 seconds to go — and No. 5 seed Baylor women’s basketball escaped No. 4 seed Virginia Tech 75-72 in the Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va. Walker, a transfer from Kentucky, scored 26 of her 28 points in the second half to lead the Bears (26-7) to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 2020-21 season, which was Kim Mulkey’s final year at the helm.

Baylor men’s golf dusts field, cruises to Aggie Invitational Title

Baylor men’s golf completed a dominant weekend at the Aggie Invitational on April 7, as the Bears recorded a 14-over 878 at Traditions Club in Bryan. The victory marked head coach Mike McGraw’s 50th career tournament title. Baylor edged Texas A&M by six shots and finished 18 shots ahead of third place Sam Houston.

No. 6 seed Baylor WTEN uses singles to defeat No. 11 seed WVU 4-2 in Big 12 Championships

No. 6 seed Baylor women’s tennis advanced past the first round of the Big 12 Championships with a 4-2 victory over No. 11 seed West Virginia on April 17 at the Greenwood Tennis Center in Stillwater, Okla. The Bears (17-11) dropped the doubles point to the Mountaineers (14-12) but used singles play to find the postseason win, which marked their second win in the last seven outings to that point.

Baylor women’s golf wraps up Veritex Bank Texas Showdown in third place

Baylor women’s golf secured a third-place finish in the match play portion of the Veritex Bank Texas Showdown with a 2.5-2.5 tie against UCF on April 9 at Dallas Athletic Club in Dallas. Junior Sera Hasegawa won both of her matches, and she improved to 11-1 in her match play career. The event acted as a tuneup for the Bears before their top-four finish at the Big 12 Championship on April 20.

Baylor track and field shines at Michael Johnson Invitational despite rainy weather

Baylor track and field put up numerous wins across a shortened Michael Johnson Invitational, thanks to rough weather in Central Texas. The meet was paused at 4:17 p.m. and then canceled around 4:30 p.m. on April 20 at the Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium in Waco. But the Bears put together six total event wins and a collegiate title before the bad weather rolled in.

No. 1 Baylor acro & tumbling outlasts No. 3 Gannon for 9th straight NCATA national championship

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling secured its ninth straight NCATA national championship, as it defeated No. 3 Gannon by a score of 272.220 to 269.315 on April 27 at the Feaster Center in Fairmont, W.Va. Head coach Felecia Mulkey tabbed her 13th national championship and ninth championship with Baylor (11-0). The Bears also won the championship in the same venue as the first time they brought hardware back to Waco in 2015.

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.