Lindsey Cargill and Ari Hawkins were freshman starters when Baylor last reached the Women’s College World Series in 2014.
Three years later, their perfect set of bookends is complete.
The Lady Bears are back in the World Series following their riveting takedown of No. 2 national seed Arizona last weekend in Tucson.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Cargill said. “It’s a dream come true again. As a little girl you want to go to the Women’s College World Series, and it’s nice to get to go back again.”
Making their fourth World Series appearance under Glenn Moore, the Lady Bears will face defending national champion Oklahoma in the first game at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
Cargill and Hawkins are among four seniors on the team, joining ace pitcher Kelsee Selman and reserve infielder Riley Browder. Selman wasn’t on the 2014 Baylor squad but made the World Series as a sophomore at LSU in 2015.
Moore is glad the seniors can finish their careers with a chance to win the championship.
“As a coach now at this point in my career, there’s no greater gift you can give your players than to take them to the greatest stage in college softball,” Moore said. “This is something they’ll talk about the rest of their lives. So it’s great for the seniors to be able to go back. For the first timers it’s great as well. Memories will be made on our sport’s greatest stage.”
Starting all four seasons, Cargill and Hawkins are finishing up two of the most productive careers in Baylor softball history.
Playing third base and batting in the leadoff spot, Cargill leads the Lady Bears with a .430 batting average, 48 runs and 34 stolen bases this season. Her 250 career hits are the most in school history, and both her .360 batting average and 89 stolen bases rank fourth on Baylor’s career list.
Playing second base and hitting third in the order, Hawkins has a .315 average with five homers, 30 RBIs and 12 stolen bases this season. Her .355 career batting average ranks sixth in school history and her 95 walks rank fifth.
The Lady Bears reached the World Series semifinals in 2014, but both Hawkins and Cargill believe they can win it all this season.
“We were so excited to go (in 2014) with all the fans there,” Cargill said. “It’s a feeling you can’t explain. I think this year we’re more focused on just winning that national championship. It’s a business trip for us.”
One of the greatest memories Cargill and Hawkins took away from their first World Series appearance was how crowds flocked to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, and how the players were heroes to young fans in attendance.
“It’s crazy, it’s loud,” Hawkins said. “There are so many fans. You see all these little girls talk to you and ask you for autographs. To see those kids inspired by us is an amazing feeling.”
In 2014, they were part of one of the most dramatic comebacks in World Series history as the Lady Bears rallied from a 7-0 deficit against Kentucky in the final three innings to pull off an 8-7 win. Cargill went 3-for-4 and Hawkins went 2-for-4.
Since she’s one of the leaders of this year’s team, Cargill feels more pressure to win this year.
“As a freshman it’s a whole new experience,” Cargill said. “But this year I’m a little bit more nervous. It’s my senior year and I just want to win the national championship. We’re focused on Oklahoma right now and trying to get that done.”
With All-American pitcher Whitney Canion finishing her career, the 2014 team had high expectations all season.
This year’s team looked like a rebuilding job as the season got under way. But Baylor has developed great chemistry with its veteran leadership and freshmen like Shelby McGlaun, Maddison Kettler and Taylor Ellis. Selman and sophomore Gia Rodoni have guided the pitching staff.
“Coming into this year, a lot of people doubted us and we even doubted ourselves because we had lost great people like Sarah Smith, Heather Stearns, Robin Landrith and Linsey Hays,” Hawkins said. “But as the year progressed we just kept faith in each other to make sure we got things accomplished. Proving people wrong has been our main focus.”
Now Hawkins and Cargill get a chance to complete their careers where they started.
“It’s an amazing thing starting your college career going to the World Series,” Hawkins said. “It’s a cool thing to finish it there.”