By Parmida Schahhosseini
After splitting back-to-back double headers against nonconference opponents, the No. 14 Baylor Lady Bears will resume conference play with a series against the Kansas Jayhawks today through Sunday in Lawrence, Kan.
“Going into the Kansas house, I know that they are always ready to play us,” senior center fielder Kathy Shelton said. “They always hit the ball well, so hopefully we just have it all together as a team and we go in there and get a sweep.”
Kansas is coming off a two game winning streak, but lost two of three games in its latest conference series against Oklahoma State. However, Kansas has the ability to bounce back because of its offense.
Other than Texas, the Jayhawks have not faced the other two top pitching teams in the Big 12. Texas swept Kansas due to its pitching, giving Baylor an advantage because they are No. 3 in the Big 12 in the circle.
The Jayhawks are effective at hitting the ball. The team leads the Big 12 in batting average at .346 with eight batters hitting over .300, four of which are hitting above .400. Senior outfielder Maggie Hull leads the team with a .467 batting average with 63 hits while adding 37 runs and 40 RBIs.
Kansas has other playmakers as well. Freshman Alex Hugo has been effective with a .426 batting average scoring 38 runs while adding 58 hits. Hugo leads the team with 12 home runs and has 42 RBIs. Sophomore Maddie Stein leads the team with 44 RBIs while generating 49 hits and 18 runs batting at .350.
Against this offense, Baylor cannot afford to repeat the same pitching effort it displayed against the University of Houston.
“We needed these games after a weekend off and we have to get better from this,” head coach Glenn Moore said.
Junior left-handed pitcher Whitney Canion, despite struggling in the middle of the season, took control of the game against Houston by not allowing a hit or run while in the circle. Canion has struck out 213 batters and averages 9.6 strikeouts a game.
“My rise was really jumping and my change up was helping me out,” Canion said.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Heather Stearns has played well with a 1.57 ERA. Stearns ranks No. 11 in strikeouts with 130.
Inside the circle, Kansas is fifth in the Big 12 with a combined 2.55 ERA. Sophomore pitcher Alicia Pille has a 2.43 ERA and has struck out 156 while allowing 96 hits and 46 runs. Junior pitcher Alex Jones has been effective with a 1.94 ERA striking out 51 batters, while allowing only 12 runs.
Baylor’s offense has a .298 batting average, which is fifth in the Big 12. However, the Lady Bear have already surpassed last year’s home run total with 24, and the freshmen have accounted for half of them. Freshman third baseman Sarah Smith’s batting percent has dropped as of late, dropping below .400 for the first time this season. Smith is still batting at .363 and leads the team with five home runs. Freshman outfielder Linsey Hays hit four home runs in addition to 40 hits and 23 runs.
In addition to Smith and Hays, junior first baseman Holly Holl has also contributed to the increase in home runs. In the last six games, Holl has a .474 batting average with two home runs and two doubles in addition to eight RBI. Holl is also reading pitches well, leading the team with 31 walks drawn.
The Lady Bears need Shelton and sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Thumann to continue being aggressive to bring a spark to the team. The duo is first and second in stolen bases, respectively. Shelton already broke Baylor’s stolen base record and is continuing to add more.