In-state rival Lady Bears a perfect challenge for softball
After the softball team’s brief three-game winning streak was snapped on Sunday against Tulsa, the Cougars have now set their sights on their last non-conference opponent of the regular season: a doubleheader against the No. 21 ranked Baylor Lady Bears on Tuesday.
The Cougars and Lady Bears have nearly identical records at 29-17 and 29-13, respectively. While the Cougars have been solid at home, going 17-9, the Lady Bears are excellent away from their home confines, going 11-4 in away games. The issue for the Cougars is for every statistical strength they possess, the Lady Bears have at least one player they can counter with.
This season, the Cougars have relied on their trio of starting pitchers, juniors Savannah Heebner and Presley Bell and sophomore Trystan Melancon, to lead them to wins time after time. But as good as they have collectively been, the Bears have Gia Rodoni, who has accumulated more strikeouts by herself — 206 — than the entire Cougars’ pitching staff — 198.
At the plate, the Cougars have sophomore infielder Sarah Queen, who has been a consistent force for them this season, leading the team in home runs — eight — and RBIs — 30. She is also second on the team to sophomore infielder Arielle James with a batting average of .366.
On the opposite side, the Lady Bears trot out infielder Shelby “Goose” McGlaun, a hitter who passes Queen in both home runs — 11 — and RBIs — 38 — while adding two triples this season for good. In addition, McGlaun has proved herself to be a tough out at the plate, striking out only nine times in 122 at-bats.
The best hope for the Cougars to be able to sweep the doubleheader is to jump out to a sizable lead and ride their dominant pitchers to a pair of wins. If the Lady Bears have any noticeable weakness statistically, it would be their pitchers’ ERA. The Lady Bears’ pitchers have a collective ERA of 2.50, almost a full run more than the 1.83 ERA the Cougars allow.
Among the seven players with at least 100 at-bats, the Cougars have four who boast a batting of .300 or better on the season. It will be up to junior outfielder Maya Thomas, sophomore outfielder Lindsey Stewart, James and Queen to get on base and apply the pressure to whichever pitcher the Bears put on the mound.
Statistically, the Cougars have shown they are virtually impossible to beat if they score at least five runs. For the season, the Lady Bears have given an average of only 2.88 runs per game, but over their last eight games that number has risen to 3.75, only going 4-4 in that stretch. Over that same period of games, the Cougars have given up an average of exactly three runs per game while scoring 4.1 runs. One thing is for sure — this will be a hard fought two-game series against in-state competition.
The games are Tuesday at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at Cougar Softball Stadium.