It was an ideal situation for the Longhorns as they entered their matchup with No. 21 Baylor on Tuesday afternoon at McCombs Field. Winners of its first nine Big 12 games, a win would have cemented Texas’ status among the conference’s elite teams.
Instead, Baylor junior pitcher Gia Rodoni stole the show, as the right-handed ace picked apart the Texas lineup during a three-hit shutout that propelled Baylor to a 3-0 victory over the Longhorns (26–16, 9–1 Big 12).
“I think we had a pretty decent game plan coming in against Rodoni, but we were guessing at the plate,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “We didn’t really take the plan and commit to it fully and got in guessing mode, and you can’t do that with quality pitching.”
The Baylor ace made quick work of the Longhorns on Tuesday, throwing only 93 pitches along with eight strikeouts in a complete-game effort.
“She changes speed really well,” sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth said. “I know as a catcher that when she throws the inside pitch and then comes back with the change, that speed difference is different to the eye, so it makes it really difficult.”
While Rodoni fooled Texas hitters for the better part of the game, the opposite was true for Texas senior pitcher Paige von Sprecken in the early going.
After a scoreless first inning that featured three hard-hit outs, Baylor sprung an offensive bonanza upon the Texas ace pitcher in the second inning.
With the bases loaded following a pair of base hits and one-out walk, Baylor sophomore right fielder Maddison Kettler drove in the Bears’ first run of the game on a sharply hit ground ball to the right side of the infield for a fielder’s choice, giving Baylor a 1-0 lead.
Baylor senior center fielder Jessie Scroggins immediately followed suit, slicing the first pitch she saw from von Sprecken down the left-field line for a RBI double that scored two more Baylor runs.
The only interruption to Rodoni’s nearly flawless night at McCombs Field arrived in the bottom of the fifth when sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack and junior center fielder Ki’Audra Hayter registered consecutive singles off the Baylor right-hander with two outs.
But the Longhorns were unable to take advantage of Rodoni’s quick lapse. Freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson skied a pop fly to left field that stranded two runners on base.
The brief fifth-inning rally, which accounted for two of the Longhorns’ three hits on the evening, was all the Texas lineup could muster against a dominant Rodoni, as the Baylor junior made easy work of the Longhorns in the final two frames.
“I thought (Rodoni) threw a nice ball game, but she didn’t throw things that we didn’t work on yesterday,” Clark said. “We put in a lot of work with the off-speed stuff, and we just have to commit to (the plan) on game day.”
Texas returns to action this weekend at McCombs Field for a critical three-game home stand against the No. 24 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
“You can’t make (tonight) too big of a game,” Slack said. “You have to make sure you have the little things going and perform like you know how to.”