By Parmida Schahhosseini
Coming off a sweep of Oklahoma State, the No. 16 Lady Bears will take a break from Big 12 games to play a double-header against North Texas starting at 4 p.m. today in Lovelace Stadium in Denton.
The Lady Bears have already defeated North Texas twice this season in the Texas Shootout in late February. Baylor won the first game 8-3 and the second game 9-3.
Baylor was riding a 12-game winning streak before facing North Texas last time. The Baylor offense was in a groove, recording double-digit hits in both games against the Mean Green.
North Texas is looking to find some momentum, having lost five of its last seven games.
Most teams do better at home because of the crowd and familiarity of the environment, but that cannot be said of North Texas, which has a 4-8 home record.
Baylor will look to take advantage of that and record another win. Baylor’s pitching has improved despite early struggles against No. 5 Texas and No. 1 Oklahoma. Junior left-handed pitcher Whitney Canion and freshman right-handed pitcher Heather Stearns have gotten back into form on the mound.
Against Oklahoma State, Stearns only allowed three hits, two runs and four walks while striking out 17 batters. Canion is slowly starting to get back into rhythm by pitching one of her best games this season. Canion also struck out 17 batters while only allowing three hits and three walks without allowing a run against Oklahoma State over the weekend.
“Any time you have good consistent pitcher around the zone, it frees the defense out and relaxes them a bit,” head coach Glenn Moore said. “Then you’re able to scratch across a couple of runs. You feel a lot better.”
Despite going up against the Cowgirls’ ace, Kat Espinosa, Baylor had 15 hits and eight runs in the three games. Baylor struggled offensively, but the pitching staff and defense kept the Lady Bears in the games.
However, Baylor will look to improve its offensive play against North Texas. The pitching staff for North Texas has a 3.89 ERA, striking out 178 batters while allowing 257 hits, 159 runs and 120 walks.
Baylor’s offense hopes to take advantage of the pitching staff by reading each pitch carefully to increase pitch counts.
“When you make a pitcher throw a lot of pitches, she’s going to get worn down and then hopefully make more mistakes,” senior center fielder Kathy Shelton said. “Then you have to take advantage of those mistakes.”
In addition to Shelton, sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Thumann, freshman infielder Sarah Smith and junior first baseman Holly Holl have been giving the offense a lift.
Shelton is hitting .373 and is tied with Thumann for the most hits on the team at 53. Shelton has also stolen 30 bases, which also leads the team. Thumann is hitting .390 and has scored 35 runs. She has also stolen 24 bases this season.
Smith has a .404 batting average and has generated 44 hits and scored 15 runs. Smith also ties freshman outfielder Linsey Hays for the most home runs on the team with four.
Despite early struggles, Holl has caught fire in recent games. Against Texas State on Tuesday, Holl went 3-3 with four RBIs and scored one run. Against Oklahoma State, Holl went 2-2 while scoring a run in the first game, and had two RBIs in the third game.
“[Moore] sat me and I was able to recollect and just get my head straight,” Holl said. “That’s what I really needed to do, and I think it was one of the best things for me.”
Brooke Foster is the only North Texas player batting over .300, but the team has four players including Foster batting above .250.
North Texas struggles offensively and is getting outscored 159 to 151 on the season, which will allow Baylor’s pitching staff to take advantage of the situation.