The Big 12 softball tournament is back for the first time since 2010 and Baylor coach Glenn Moore can’t wait to jump into it.
Not only is it a chance to win a championship, the No. 12 Lady Bears can continue to make their case to host one of 16 NCAA regionals next week.
“There’s a lot to this but a Big 12 championship is at the top of the list,” Moore said. “You’ve got an opportunity to play your best ball in two days and you can bring a trophy home. I’m not saying it will be easy but it’s certainly another championship and we value this as much as the regular season.”
The No. 2 seed Lady Bears (41-11, 13-5) will open against No. 3 Oklahoma State (33-22, 12-6) at 11 a.m. Friday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. Baylor will play a second game at 5 p.m. Friday against No. 6 Iowa State (23-32, 6-12).
In the other Friday games, No. 4 Texas plays No. 5 Texas Tech at 11 a.m., No. 1 Oklahoma faces Texas at 2 p.m., Oklahoma State plays Iowa State at 2 p.m., and Texas Tech faces Oklahoma at 7:30 p.m. Two playing fields will be used at the softball complex.
On Saturday, the six teams will be matched according to their Friday records, and Baylor hopes to be in the 4:30 p.m. championship game. Moore is looking forward to playing at the home of the Women’s College World Series, and expects the tournament to bring more attention to the Big 12.
“We needed a shot in the arm for our conference,” Moore said. “We needed to have some eyes on us. A lot of the other conferences are getting a lot of publicity that the Big 12 is missing out on by not having a tournament. We’ll play in the stadium the World Series is played in and we use that in recruiting. Other conferences don’t have the opportunity to use Hall of Fame Stadium and it’s right in the center of our conference, so it works out.”
Since Baylor never won the Big 12 tournament from 1997-2010, this group of players would like to be the first.
“It’s really an exciting time,” said Baylor third baseman Lindsey Cargill. “I’m glad it’s back and we have another chance to play Oklahoma State and whoever is in front of us and be able to beat them again and hopefully win a Big 12 championship. I know we can do it. We have the motivation to beat these teams.”
In past tournaments, the Big 12 played a double-elimination format with 10 teams. After Texas A&M, Missouri and Nebraska left the conference, the new format has just six teams with No. 7 Kansas not qualifying.
But Moore likes the new format because each team will play three games and still be fresh for regionals next week.
“In a strong conference with double elimination and four or five games if you’re playing well, you just wear your pitching out,” Moore said. “So we’ll play scheduled games in pool play on Friday and that sets us up for the opportunity to win a championship on Saturday and you’ve played a maximum of three games. Your fans know when you’re going to play on Friday for sure, so they can schedule around it.”
The Lady Bears won two of three games against Oklahoma State April 28—30 and swept all three games against Iowa State April 7-9 at Getterman Stadium. Baylor ace Kelsee Selman (21-7) is expected to start in the first game against Oklahoma State’s Brandi Needham (18-8).
Moore believes the Lady Bears should have already clinched an NCAA tournament host spot since they’re No. 10 in the RPI, one spot ahead of Oklahoma. But he’s taking nothing for granted after getting sent on the road last year to Oregon despite having the No. 13 RPI.
“It’s an opportunity to put the finishing touches on our resume before we send it to the committee,” Moore said. “Of course, they’ve been watching us. But if you are a bubble team this gives you an opportunity to play well in this tournament and say ‘Hey, we either deserve to go to the tournament or we deserve in our case to host.’”