By Shehan Jeyarajah
No. 12 Baylor softball will welcome defending national champion No. 13 Oklahoma to Getterman Stadium in a three-game conference showdown this weekend from Friday to Sunday.
“It’s as big as it gets this weekend,” Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said. “We’re happy to have it here in our park, and it’s a big series. We’ve done everything to prepare for it, so we’re excited about playing them.”
The Bears come into this game after splitting a double-header against the University of Houston at Cougar Softball Stadium. The Bears struggled to earn hits off Houston sophomore ace Julana Shrum but scored runs when it mattered in the first game. In the second, the Bears had two runners in scoring position in the seventh with only one out, but could not drive them home in a tight 3-2 loss.
Junior right fielder Kaitlyn Thumann has been the most consistent Bear in the lineup with a batting average of .410 in 36 starts this season. The always reliable senior catcher Clare Hosack has hit nine home runs this season and posts a team-high slugging percentage of .691. Sophomore Linsey Hays has come on as of late to hit .340 with a .617 slugging percentage in 29 games this season.
Senior pitcher Whitney Canion has been dominant. In 19 starts, she has an ERA of only 1.41 and a record of 16-5 with a save. Opposing batters are hitting an absurdly low .154 when she is on the mound.
Sophomore starter Heather Stearns has added a record of 10-2 with a 1.18 ERA.
The Sooners have won 12 straight games, including a sweep of Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. Most recently in conference play, the Sooners swept Kansas in Norman by a combined score of 25-3, including two shutouts.
Junior infielder Shelby Pendley has been one of the best players in the nation this season. In 38 starts, she has a batting average of .441 and a slugging percentage of .864 to go along with a team-high 45 RBIs.
Pendley was recently named one of the top 25 finalists for 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
As a team, the Sooners hit .316 and slugged an elevated .547. The Oklahoma lineup features six players with batting averages over .300 and two with averages over .400 — Pendley and sophomore outfielder Kady Self. Pendley has also posted a career batting average of .333 against the Bears.
Opponents only hit .239 with a slugging percentage of .360 off of Oklahoma’s pitching rotation. Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Stevens has started 29 of the Sooners’ 38 games, and is posting a 2.00 ERA with a record of 21-5.
Four different pitchers have appearances in nine games or more this season. Pendley has appeared in nine games and has recorded three saves.
All three games of the series will be televised in some form. Saturday night’s game in Waco will be broadcast on the flagship ESPN station.
“Putting Baylor on TV, that’s just a great experience for the school and for the program,” Hosack said. “It is another series in a sense, but at the same time, it’s OU. They have a great team, so much history and we need to be prepared no matter what.”
Friday’s game is at 6:30 on Fox Sports Southwest Plus, Saturday’s is at 4 p.m. on ESPN and Sunday’s game is at 12 p.m. on Fox Sports Southwest Plus.