No. 1 seed Texas eases past No. 4 seed Baylor softball with 14-3 run-rule victory

Junior right-handed pitcher Ava Knoll (3) allowed just two earned runs on three hits in her 2 1/3 innings of relief on Friday. Michael Haag | Sports Editor

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

OKLAHOMA CITY — Baylor softball head coach Glenn Moore knows what it takes to beat an “elite-level hitting team” like Texas or Oklahoma, and it’s not by outscoring them in a shootout.

Backed by a pair of six spots in the first two innings, the top-seeded Longhorns overwhelmed the fourth-seeded Bears 14-3 via five-inning run-rule in the semifinal round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Softball Tournament on Friday night at OGE Field at Devon Park.

Moore said his squad needed to compete better in the circle.

“You have to be able to hold that offense down with pitching,” Moore said. “And the times that we’ve beaten them in the past, that’s what we typically have done. You’re not going to score a ton of runs.”

Baylor (32-20) swept a top-five Texas (47-6) team last year, and the Bears allowed four runs across that entire weekend. That didn’t carry over to this year, though, as the Longhorns secured a spot in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship game with their fourth win over Baylor this season and fifth straight game with 10 or more runs.

Texas, which has run-ruled its last seven opponents, raced out to an early lead after roughing up sophomore right-handed pitcher RyLee Crandall for five earned runs on five hits, including a three-run homer. Crandall (14-8) was pulled before the Bears secured their first out of the game.

Moore said Crandall hasn’t quite regained the rhythm she had last year when she owned an ERA of 3.05 with 85 strikeouts through 130.2 innings of work and was named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.

“You can have eight players on top of their game in our sport, but if you don’t have the one in the circle on top of her game, even if she’s giving you everything she’s got; if you can’t pitch to that level against elite-level hitting teams like Texas, then it’s going to be a long day,” Moore said. “[We] don’t point fingers, but it starts in the circle, and everybody that knows this sport knows that.”

The Longhorns plated six runs in each of the first two innings to take a 12-0 lead. They recorded 10 of their 13 total hits, including three of their five total homers, across those first two frames of the game.

“That was [two] explosive first innings for us, but first, we had to shut them down,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “Baylor was coming off a nice win last night. They’re a tough team. We’ve had trouble with them over the years, and beating anybody — like I said last night — four times is difficult.”

Texas stranded two Baylor runners in the top of the first inning before its offensive explosion. Longhorns right-handed pitcher Teagan Kavan (17-2) allowed just two hits over the next three innings before she was replaced by junior righty Sophia Simpson, who allowed three earned runs in her lone inning of work.

Bears junior utility Shannon Vivoda handed Simpson two of those runs thanks to a two-run shot to deep center field, and the team couldn’t extend the game past the fifth, as the fell 14-3.

Baylor will find out where it’s headed in the NCAA postseason with the selection show set for 6 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN2. The Bears have guaranteed a spot in an NCAA regional for the 17th time in the last 20 seasons, and they have an outside shot at hosting.

Moore told reporters on Wednesday that they probably needed to appear in the Big 12 Championship game to be in the conversation to host. But Baylor is still ranked 17th in RPI and sports the fourth-best strength of schedule, according to Massey Ratings, as of Thursday.

The Bears also faced the No. 1-ranked team in the country seven different times this season, split between Oklahoma (3) and Texas (4).

“I hope we get some consideration from the NCAA committee [in terms of that],” Moore said. “I’m proud of the girls for withstanding that, and we’ve competed in a few of those. Not well enough to win any of them, but we’ve competed.”

The Baylor softball team is hosting a public watch party Sunday evening at the Letterwinners Lounge at McLane Stadium. Doors open at 5:15 p.m., while the show begins at 6 p.m.