The Allender family is not unaccustomed to the game of softball, especially playing it in a blue and white uniform at the collegiate level. Baylee Allender was raised by a former Creighton Bluejay in her mother, Teir and watched her older sister Kelsey follow suit as she went on to play for Creighton between 2013 and ‘16. Playing softball in Omaha, Nebraska seemed almost inevitable for Baylee as well, but the sophomore infielder chose instead to continue her softball career wearing the blue and white of Seton Hall University instead.
Since arriving in South Orange, two years ago, Allender has slowly become one of the most consistent players on the Pirates. In her freshman year, she started 31 of her 36 games for Seton Hall and scored 17 runs while maintaining a .227 batting average. This year, in 45 straight starts, she is hitting for .305 with nine home runs and 25 runs to her name with three games remaining in the season.
Most recently, Allender had back-to-back games against Georgetown in which she hit a home run and helped her side seal two important Big East wins.
“[Coach] Daniel [Nicolaisen] really just kind of transformed my swing into something I never thought it would be,” Allender said. “Just adding a leg kick, open stance. It’s just working and helping me see the ball better. And a lot of hard work.”
With nearly two years of collegiate softball under her belt now, Allender’s overall game is progressively becoming more mature. Her decision making at bat, she added, has also progressed in ways that have allowed her to be such a dangerous offensive presence for the Pirates. Freshman year exposed a bit of her naivety to swing at less promising pitches in hopes of getting on base. However, Coach Nicolaisen has also helped Allender establish a stronger ability to read her opponent’s pitches and swing at strikes rather than loose balls.
Though she is a major source of offensive productivity for this team, Allender has rarely felt any additional personal pressure to produce runs and homeruns this season. As has been the case for most of this season, the team has continued to support one another to maintain a run of good form or to bounce back from unfortunate mistakes in a previous game.
“I know the people in front of me and the people behind me are always going to pick me up,” Allender said confidently about her teammates. “I am going to do my best to get them in, so it’s really just feeding off of my teammates and knowing that even if I don’t get on, they’re going to pick me right back up.”
The season has not gone without its fair share of downsides, though, and one of those came in the second match of a doubleheader against Lehigh. After rallying back in the first game for a come-from-behind victory, Seton Hall was unable to do the same after a calamitous group of errors in one play saw the Mountain Hawks bring in two runs.
“Our team mentality is to never quit,” Allender reassured. “We’re ready to fight no matter what. It’s always a lot of fun to be in that dug out.”
Ironically enough, Seton Hall and Allender will end the regular season with three games in Omaha, Nebraska against Big East rival Creighton. With the Bluejays sitting just below Seton Hall in the Big East standings, the three-game series will require Allender and her teammates to play at their very best in order to bring home three wins and jump either Providence or Villanova in the standings for a spot in the Big East Championship.
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JustinSousa99.