By Shehan Jeyarajah
No. 14 Baylor softball is off to a strong 4-1 start after a dominant showing in the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas. In their four wins, the Bears outscored opponents 38-5.
With that momentum, the Bears will host the 2014 Hampton Inn Waco North Getterman Classic in Waco today, Saturday and Sunday.
Junior shortstop Jordan Strickland was named Big 12 Softball Player of the Week on Tuesday. Strickland led Baylor with three home runs and nine RBIs while hitting .313 in her first five games.
“The past few years, we’ve struggled offensively,” head coach Glenn Moore said. “We’ve had the need to produce more runs. We just had a good weekend, by no means is this us saying we’re going to be the No. 1 offense in the country, but it’s definitely a confidence booster for the entire offense to have Jordan get Player of the Week.”
Senior pitcher Whitney Canion recorded her 31st career shutout against Arkansas, a new Baylor record.
In her first three starts, she is 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched.
“It’s an honor to have a mark like that, but I want to be humble about it,” Canion said. “The shutouts are nice, but it doesn’t get us to the World Series or win us a Big 12 Championship. If we can get to that point, the numbers will come with the games we win.”
Junior outfielder Kaitlyn Thumann leads Baylor with a .438 batting average. She has scored seven runs in five games. The Bears lead the Big 12 in team batting average, runs, hits and RBIs.
Canion and sophomore pitcher Heather Stearns are expected to be the two starters for Baylor over the weekend. Stearns is 2-0 with nine strikeouts on the way to a 0.75 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched.
Baylor opens the Getterman Classic at 3 p.m. today against Conference USA opponent UAB. This is the Blazers’ first appearance in the Getterman Classic.
The Blazers struggled to a 1-3 record in their opening weekend tournament, with losses to No. 20 South Alabama, McNeese State and Syracuse in extra innings. UAB defeated Austin Peay for its only win. UAB is expected to start either senior left-handed pitcher Lannah Campbell or senior right-handed pitcher Leigh Streetman against the Bears. Campbell is 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in two starts. Streetman is 1-1 but has given up only two earned runs in 15 and two-thirds innings pitched. She has struck out 29 in only three appearances this season.
The Bears will move on to play Drake later that day in a double-header. The Bulldogs have lost their first four games of the season against IUPUI, Western Illinois and twice to Central Michigan.
Drake has a collective team batting average of .173, while allowing their opponents to hit .327 over the same stretch. The Bulldogs scored only seven runs in their first four games, but allowed 21 runs.
Baylor moves on to play Lipscomb at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
The Bisons have received votes in the ESPN.com/U.S.A Softball Collegiate Top 25 softball poll after winning their first four against Virginia Tech, Miami-Ohio, Tennessee State and Butler in the Music City Classic.
Baylor will play Big 10 opponent Iowa at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The Hawkeyes are 2-2 to start, with wins against UNC-Greensboro and Presbyterian. Baylor is 2-0 versus Iowa in program history.
Baylor will finish the tournament with No. 18 Missouri, who replaced Eastern Carolina at the last minute.
ECU could not travel as a result of inclement weather, so Missouri was able to replace ECU in the 2014 Hampton Inn Waco North Classic field.
Baylor softball plays only 18 games at home this season. Every home game is that much more important with so few to be played.
“Our goal for the year is to go undefeated at home, and we think it’s very achievable,” Strickland said. “We have to come out and protect this house. We have a lot of momentum, we just have to keep it going into the weekend.”
Baylor will play UAB at 3 p.m. and Drake at 5:30 p.m. today, Lipscomb at 3 p.m. and Iowa at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Missouri at 11 a.m. Sunday morning in the Getterman Classic.
All Baylor games will be played at Baylor’s Getterman Stadium.