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Softball season is more than halfway over and the No. 16 Baylor Lady Bears have three more series left against Big 12 teams.
The Lady Bears (30-10, 3-5 Big 12) are currently fifth in the Big 12, so there is a lot of work to be done if they want to compete in the postseason.
However, those statistics may be misleading because Baylor has already squared off against the best two teams in the Big 12 in No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas.
While Baylor was competitive in those games, it couldn’t pull out a win.
Baylor’s only wins against ranked opponents were against No. 2 Arizona State and No. 20 Hawaii.
After losing three in a row against No. 1 Oklahoma, the Lady Bears got a much-needed win against Texas State on Tuesday, in which junior first baseman Holly Holl went 3-4 and tied a career high with four RBIs.
“While you might hope for an easier win, if I were to draw up the game to get us prepared for Oklahoma State, it would look like that,” head coach Glenn Moore said. “Texas State challenged us in every facet of the game and made us work hard for everything.”
Baylor will take any win it can get after being in a slump as of late. The Lady Bears began the season and struggled offensively, but they improved and went on a 14-game winning streak.
The Big 12 only has seven teams after the departure of Missouri and Texas A&M, but the conference is still strong with only one team under .500. Baylor should have some confidence as it tries to finish off conference play because of its competitiveness against the best two teams.
Oklahoma is first in the nation in pitching with a .95 ERA, but Baylor did generate 16 hits in its three game series.
Freshman infielder Sarah Smith showed promise by getting on base two times during her three at-bats on Sunday.
The offense needs to continue being aggressive because Baylor is the second-worst batting team in the Big 12. Facing Oklahoma and Texas may have dropped percentages, but the Lady Bears need to take advantage of facing unranked opponents.
Baylor is hitting .299 and has a .418 slugging percentage. The team also has produced 181 runs and generated 306 base hits.
Baylor also needs to improve on its on-base percentage, which is currently at .370. The Lady Bears are last in the Big 12 in home runs. Head coach Glenn Moore wanted to transition into a power offense, but most of the power hits turn into fly outs.
Pitching has been vastly inconsistent despite the talent on the roster. The pitching staff is third in the Big 12 with a 1.76 ERA but has struggled in conference play.
Baylor is fourth when only factoring in Big 12 games with a 3.76 ERA while giving up 56 hits, 42 runs and 35 walks. Freshman right-handed pitcher Heather Stearns has had the opportunity to close games and gain experience.
Against Iowa State, Stearns came in for junior left-handed pitcher Whitney Canion who had struggled that day after giving up five runs.
Stearns didn’t allow a hit, and Baylor earned the come-from-behind win 7-5.
Senior right-handed pitcher Courtney Repka and junior right-handed pitcher Liz Paul, who led the team to an NCAA tournament berth last year, have struggled as relief pitchers, but all three Big 12 teams Baylor faced are hitting at .300 or better.
Canion has struggled in Big 12 play, giving up 27 hits while striking out 36. Canion has also allowed many walks, which is uncharacteristic of her.
However, Canion got a confidence boost against Texas State by striking out 10 batters to help the Lady Bears pull out a win.
Sometimes, teams may overlook certain parts of the game if they continue to win, but the Lady Bears need to stay focused and keep improving to get back to another College World Series.
“I think we need to build on the little victories and really get our confidence up,” senior outfielder Kathy Shelton said.
Baylor will have a chance to improve their record at 6:30 p.m. Friday as it takes on Oklahoma State at Getterman Stadium.