Texas Tech softball fell to Baylor 5-2 on March 28, a close game between two Big 12 teams that extended into eight innings. With the result, Tech was officially swept for the first time this season after dropping their first two games of the opening interconference series as well.
The Red Raiders started senior Missy Zoch on the mound for the third game of the series against Baylor, and despite the loss, Zoch had a career day with ten strikeouts.
Baylor meanwhile started senior Gia Radoni, a pitcher who made the All-Big 12 First Team in 2018. Radoni threw all eight innings for Baylor and allowed only two runs on six hits while throwing six strikeouts to one walk.
The third game of the series against Baylor began with a double by Baylor’s leadoff hitter Lou Gilbert that led Baylor to load the bases in the first inning. Zoch struck out two batters and a force out at home to end the inning.
After the game, Tech head coach Sami Ward spoke on the importance of getting out of their situation with the bases loaded in the first inning.
“I think that was definitely a tone setter for us, that could have gone the other way quite easily,” Ward said. “But, the defense really hunkered down and Missy (Zoch) kept attacking, and it gave us a really good opportunity to get in there and stay in there.”
In the Red Raiders' first inning on offense, redshirt senior outfielder Heaven Burton notched Tech’s first hit of the day with a single after junior utility player and leadoff hitter Yvonne Whaley grounded out.
Burton advanced to third base after stealing second and a Karli Hamilton ground out, but senior utility player Maddie Westmoreland struck out swinging, leaving Burton on base.
Zoch recorded two strikeouts and forced a ground out to get a quick 1-2-3 second inning, but could not take advantage of the momentum on offense with a 1-2-3 inning of their own.
The third inning mirrored the lackluster hitting seen in the second, with neither team getting a hit in the inning and both pitchers recording only one strikeout. Baylor's hitting struggles continued in the fourth as well, getting through only three batters after a Zoch strikeout and a double play.
Burton hit a double in her second at bat in the bottom of the fourth and was brought home by a Hamilton single to give Tech its first lead of the game. It would be the only score of the inning, however, after Baylor’s pitcher Rodoni turned a double play and forced a fly out to finish the inning.
Baylor got two runners on in the top of the fifth inning, but failed to bring any home after a ground out advanced both runners. A fly out and another ground out left both runners on.
Tech suffered the same offensive struggles in the fifth inning, with junior and freshman infielders Zoe Jones and Riley Love striking out to bring Rodoni’s total to four. Entering the sixth inning, both teams had combined for only six hits.
Zoch gave up a single to start the top of the sixth, but got the next batter to strike out swinging for her eighth strikeout of the day to match her season high. Zoch faced Baylor’s freshman utility player Emily Hott with one out and one on, and gave up her fourth home run of the season to give Baylor a 2-1 lead.
After forcing two straight ground outs, the Red Raiders were up to bat in the sixth, losing for their first time all game. Whaley began the inning by grounding out to first, and Burton followed with a single but got caught trying to reach second. Hamilton walked with two outs, but Westmoreland’s second strikeout of the day would end the inning with Hamilton left on base.
Zoch recorded her ninth strikeout to start the seventh, setting a new record for strikeouts in a game among the Red Raiders' pitching staff so far this season. Zoch gave up a single in the next at bat but bounced back by recording yet another strikeout.
Zoch gave up a walk to get runners on first and second, but then forced a ground out to finish the top of the seventh. Zoch would end the day with ten strikeouts but more importantly kept Baylor’s lead to just one when the Red Raiders were up to bat in the bottom of the seventh.
After the game, Zoch spoke of her performance on the mound.
“I really think I was just utilizing my off-speed more today,” Zoch said. “I was really mixing a lot and it seemed to keep them a lot more off balance.”
Ward also spoke postgame about Zoch’s performance not only in the game against Baylor but all season.
“Missy’s done a really good job all year to be really honest,” Ward said. “I think she’s got some of the best stuff we’ve seen and the equalizer for her is her change-up. I thought she did a really good job today battling adversity and I was really proud of her performance.”
Freshman infielder Arianna Villa started the bottom of the seventh with a single to center field and was pinch ran for by freshman utility player Jacee Hamlin. Senior infielder Breanna Russel then grounded out to the pitcher and advanced Hamlin to scoring position.
Zoe Jones hit a grounder to shortstop that advanced Hamlin to third, but after a throwing error by the shortstop, she was able to get all the way to second while also scoring Hamlin and tying the game.
Freshman utility player Abbie Orrick pinch ran for Jones and successfully stole third base but ended the inning by trying to reach home and being tagged out right before reaching the plate.
Zoch forced Baylor's first batter into a foul out, but then walked two batters and was pulled midway through the top of the eighth for senior pitcher Erin Edmoundson. Edmounson entered the game looking to bounce back from her loss the day before.
Edmoundson hit her first batter, though, loading the bases with one out. After bouncing back by striking out the next batter, Edmounson gave up a double to Baylor’s Gilbert that cleared the bases and gave Baylor a 5-2 lead.
Tech’s comeback attempt fell short in the eighth inning, with Love and Whaley fouling out and grounding out respectively, and Heaven Burton recording her first strikeout of the game to end the game.
After the game, Ward spoke on what Baylor was able to do to scrape by and earn the extra innings win.
“I think they have a long established program, long established culture, and I think that makes the difference in some situations where you are in really tight ball games,” Ward said. “We're gonna get there and I've got no doubt of that.”
The final score of the game was 5-2 in Baylor’s favor, bringing an end to the opening weekend of Big 12 play. Baylor also beat Tech in the first two games of the series, sweeping the Red Raiders and moving their record to 16-13.
Tech’s next series takes place next weekend when they travel to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns in search of their first win over a Big 12 opponent. The first game of the series is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 1, and will be the Red Raiders first away game after an 18 game home stretch.