OKLAHOMA CITY — After losing its Super Regional opener to No. 2 Arizona, Baylor stunned everybody by winning the last two games to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
What the Lady Bears face now is twice as hard.
Following their World Series opening loss to Oklahoma, the Lady Bears have to win four games without a loss over the next two days to reach Monday’s best-of-three championship series.
No. 15 Baylor’s quest begins against No. 3 Oregon at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“We have a team that fights every pitch, and I believe that we can make the national championship game,” said Baylor All-America third baseman Lindsey Cargill. “I think we know we can do it. That’s why we’re not really worried.”
Gia Rodoni (18-3) will get her first start since throwing back-to-back no-hitters for Baylor (48-14) against Kent State and James Madison in the Waco regional two weeks ago.
Rodoni is glad she got to pitch the sixth inning of Baylor’s 6-3 loss to Oklahoma on Thursday night to get a feel for the crowd and the stadium. Starter Kelsee Selman gave up nine hits and six runs in five innings against the No. 10 Sooners, including a three-run homer by Nicole Pendley in the first inning.
“I’m very excited,” Rodoni said. “It was nice getting the feel of the atmosphere last night, and I’m just ready to go at them Saturday. I expect a full crowd as well like we had Thursday night, and I think it helped a lot.”
With Washington ace Taran Alvelo throwing a five-hitter, the Ducks (52-8) dropped their World Series opener to their Pac-12 rival, 3-1, on Thursday night. Oregon pitcher Megan Kleist (20-4) allowed just four hits, but Washington’s Kirstyn Thomas delivered the big blow with a two-run homer in the seventh.
Besides Kleist, Oregon features a second 20-game winner in Maggie Balint. Miranda Elish (11-0) is also a superb pitcher for a staff that has compiled a remarkable 1.36 ERA.
After seeing a steady diet of left-handed pitchers against Arizona and Oklahoma, the Lady Bears will be relieved to face Oregon’s staff of right-handers.
Oklahoma ace Paige Parker gave up just five hits and one unearned run through six innings before the Lady Bears scored twice against Paige Lowary in the seventh when the Sooners made two errors.
“We’re kind of sick of seeing lefties right now,” said Baylor coach Glenn Moore. “I’m hoping they don’t have a lefty they can throw against us. The left-handed hitters are kind of the strength of our program. Not that we don’t have a couple righties that can swing it, but the lefties are certainly what makes us tick.”
The Ducks are led at the plate by Alexis Mack with a .415 batting average and Nikki Udria with a .395 average and a team-high 10 homers and 51 RBIs. Gwen Svekis has also supplied solid power with a .309 average with nine homers and 40 RBIs.
The Ducks have become a national power under Mike White, reaching the World Series four times since 2012. They won their first 35 games this season and finished the Pac-12 with a 17-6 record, a half-game behind Arizona.
Not only do the Lady Bears hope to beat Oregon to stay alive in the tournament, they want to get revenge against the Ducks after losing in the finals of last year’s regional in Eugene.
Rodoni believes Baylor has the pitching depth to make a run at reaching the championship series. The Baylor-Oregon winner will play again at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
“If we have two games Saturday, I believe Kelsee and I can get it done and take this team to the championship,” Rodoni said. “We had to fight before, and I think we can do it again. So I’m very confident in what we have going on right now.”
BEAR FACTS – On Friday, the Baylor softball team visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial that honors 168 people who died in the 1995 terrorist bombing.
“I’m old enough to remember that vividly,” said Baylor coach Glenn Moore. “It’s one of the finest memorials that I’ve ever seen. You just can’t forget history. If you want to prevent things like that from happening, you’ve got to keep it fresh on their mind.”