By Shehan Jeyarajah
After winning the Getterman Classic tournament last weekend, No. 15 Baylor softball will hit the road to play in another tournament. Baylor plays in the five-game Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., Thursday to Saturday.
“Palm Springs is always the toughest nonconference tournament in the country,” softball coach Glenn Moore said. “It has the toughest field of teams.
Baylor softball is off to a strong start to its 2014 campaign. The Bears sit at 8-2 after achieving a 4-1 record in consecutive tournaments, including a win in the 2014 Getterman Classic in Waco last weekend.
Senior catcher Clare Hosack is hitting .478 on the season with four doubles, nine RBI’s and a home run in nine starts.
Junior right fielder Kaitlyn Thumann and freshman second baseman Ari Hawkins were named to the All-Tournament team in Waco, and both are hitting over .400 on the season.
Senior left-hander Whitney Canion is 4-2 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts and is holding opponents to a .178 batting average with 43 strikeouts in 36.1 innings pitched with four complete games.
Sophomore pitcher Heather Stearns is 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA in her four starts.
The Bears hit .336 as a team and hold opponents to a .196 average. Baylor heads into the Mary Nutter Classic outscoring opponents by a combined run total of 54-17 on the season.
“We like to go out there, and really see how good we are,” Moore said. “Fortunately we’ve had two good weeks in a row, so hopefully we can build on that.”
Baylor opens the tournament with a rematch against No. 18 Missouri. The Bears beat the Tigers, 2-1, in their last game on Sunday morning in the Getterman Classic.
Canion put forth a masterful performance in the last game against Mizzou.
The sixth-year senior threw a complete game and allowed five hits and one run over seven innings.
“Adding Missouri to the Getterman Classic was a huge plus,” Canion said. “We went out there and I felt like it was a battle every single pitch. I felt great about the way our team fought against a great SEC team.”
Thumann finished with three hits in four at-bats, including an RBI and a run in the win.
Missouri scored its lone run of the ballgame in the fifth on an RBI single by right fielder Emily Crane to drive home second baseman Ashtin Stephens. Outside of the fifth inning, Missouri got only two hits on Canion.
Moore revealed that Stearns will likely start against Missouri.
Baylor will move on to play No. 11 Stanford Friday. The Cardinal is undefeated at 12-0 with perfect performances in the Kajikawa Classic and the Stanford Nike Invitational.
Freshman outfielder Bessie Noll leads Stanford with 17 hits for a .548 batting average. She has scored 13 runs, including a homer.
Junior outfielder Cassandra Roulund is hitting .436 and has driven in 16 RBIs and scored 11 runs.
The Cardinal will be the most potent offense Baylor has played so far, with five players hitting over .400 and nine players hitting over .300 in the lineup.
Freshman right-hander Madi Schreyer is 9-0 with a 1.36 ERA in 46.1 innings pitched and seven starts. She has already thrown four complete games. Schreyer has thrown in 63 percent of Stanford’s innings.
Baylor will play Cal State Fullerton in the second game of the Friday double-header. The Titans sit at 9-3 after playing in the Easton Tournament and San Diego State Tournament.
Baylor plays on Saturday against California. The Golden Bears are 5-4 on the season, and fell out of the top 25 after losses to Texas State and St. Mary’s.
Baylor closes the tournament against Northwestern on Sunday. The Wildcats are 7-2 after strong performances in the Kajikawa Classic and Tiger Invitational. Northwestern’s only losses were to then-No. 22 Stanford and No. 21 LSU.
This is the toughest stretch of the season for Baylor softball, but the team is confident it will benefit from the pressure in the long run.
“You get better by playing tougher competition,” Thumann said. “The first weekend our offense was crazy good and the second weekend the pitching was crazy good. We’re not at our best yet, which means we have room to grow.”
Baylor is 8-2 and has 20 more nonconference games, before Big 12 Conference play starts.
Baylor plays No. 18 Missouri at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday; No. 11 Stanford at 5 p.m. and Cal State Fullerton at 7:30 p.m. on Friday; California at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Northwestern at 11 a.m. on Sunday.