By Parmida Schahhosseini
With the season winding down, the No. 15 Baylor Lady Bears are preparing to make a run for the NCAA Tournament. However, Baylor still needs to take care of business within the Big 12 Conference in order to gain favorable position for the end of the season.
Baylor (37-13, 8-6 Big 12) is currently third in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Texas.
Oklahoma and Texas hold the tiebreaker over Baylor due to series wins, so in the event of a tie, Baylor would lose out.
However, a tie is unlikely because Oklahoma’s lone loss was to Texas and the only two losses Texas suffered were against Oklahoma.
It is critical for the Lady Bears to sweep Texas Tech because of the Lady Raiders’ recent struggles.
With a game against Texas still on the schedule, Baylor must take advantage of Texas Tech’s recent slump to overtake the Longhorns in the standings.
Texas Tech is last in the conference pitching and sixth in batting whereas Baylor is third in both categories.
The real key to watch out for in the Big 12 is the matchup between Oklahoma and Texas. Oklahoma is first in batting, but second in pitching whereas Texas is first in pitching and second in batting.
Texas pitcher Blaire Luna leads the Big 12 with a 1.18 ERA and has struck out 107 Big 12 batters. However, Oklahoma has a one-two punch with Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne who have only lost one game between them. Luna, however, has lost two.
Oklahoma is a powerhouse with five batters in the top 10 in the Big 12 Conference in terms of batting average. The first three batters are all from the Sooners with two of them hitting better than .500.
Infielder Lauren Chamberlain was on a tear early in the season, averaging a home run every other game. Infielder Shelby Pendley has hit nine home runs in conference games, and Chamberlain has hit six.
Despite Baylor’s losses to Oklahoma and Texas, the games have been competitive. Most of the runs scored were due to errors and defensive breakdowns.
For example, during the first game against Oklahoma, the No. 1 team in the nation, Baylor committed two critical errors.
Baylor also committed an error in the second game that led to runs that cost the Lady Bears the game.
With the pitching ranks dominated by Oklahoma and Texas, junior left-handed pitcher Whitney Canion and freshman right-handed pitcher Heather Stearns have been effective for Baylor.
Stearns has struggled against Big 12 teams, going 2-2, but has still struck out 48 while allowing only 15 walks and 14 earned runs. Canion has a 2.54 ERA in Big 12 play and has struck out 64 batters. She has walked 27 batters, but her number of walks allowed has been decreasing.
Against Kansas, Canion only allowed seven and against Oklahoma State, Canion gave up three.
While she allowed more walks against Kansas, Oklahoma State’s offense is ranked sixth in the Big 12 compared to Kansas’, which is ranked fifth.
Kansas also has a better on-base percentage at .342 compared to .338 for Oklahoma State.
Senior center fielder Kathy Shelton and sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Thumann have been effective on offense.
Shelton has displayed her senior leadership by her play. Shelton is first in the Big 12 in triples with two and also leads the Big 12 in stolen bases with 10 during Big 12 play.
Shelton is also No. 4 in Big 12 in runs scored, keeping pace with Oklahoma and Texas players this season.
Kansas is still fighting for the third spot, but the Jayhawks still have to play a series against Oklahoma and Iowa State. Oklahoma is not a favorable matchup because of the talent on that club.
Kansas’ struggle against Canion dropped them from the No. 1 batting team in the Big 12 to No. 5.
Ricketts is undefeated in Big 12 play and has struck out 67 while giving up 10 runs and Gascoigne’s only loss came against the Texas Longhorns, but she has struck out 26 batters while giving up only eight runs.
Baylor’s last conference game is against Texas. A win is critical to help Baylor’s seeding because the Longhorns have a strong team.
The Longhorns have two pitchers in the top-five in Big 12 play, Luna and Kim Bruins, but they are also strong on offense.
Outfielder Taylor Hoagland is first in runs scored and shortstop Taylor Thom is first in hits.
If Canion can quiet down the offense and turn the matchup into a pitchers duel, Baylor has a chance, but Baylor’s offense cannot be in a slump.