By Shehan Jeyarajah
After losing the first two games of the series in heartbreaking fashion, Baylor softball found themselves in desperate need a win to keep themselves alive in the Big 12 race. On Sunday afternoon, the Bears (30-9, 4-3) overcame a disruptive rain delay after the fourth to come back and win an 8-6 thriller at Getterman to give Oklahoma (32-9, 9-1) their first Big 12 loss of the season.
The last two games between these two programs combined for only seven total runs, but Sunday’s game turned into an offensive showcase. Contrary to the modest numbers of the first two games, there were 14 total runs scored and 16 hits in the seven-inning shootout in Waco.
The fireworks started early for both Oklahoma and Baylor. Shortstop Georgia Casey opened the game with a double to left field off of Baylor pitcher Heather Stearns and SELF doubled to right center to drive in Casey for the first run of the ballgame. First baseman Brittany Williams singled off of Stearns two batters later to put runners on first and third with only one out, and Baylor coach Glenn Moore had seen enough.
Stearns was replaced by right-hander Liz Paul, who set the all-time Baylor record for most appearances with 56 by entering Sunday’s game. Paul allowed a sacrifice bunt from catcher Whitney Ellis to score Self, but struck out pitcher Whitney Miller to retire the side.
With the two run lead, Oklahoma scratched starting pitcher Kelsey Stevens in favor of Miller, and the Baylor offense responded. Right fielder Kaitlyn Thumann singled to lead off and second baseman Ari Hawkins hit a homer to left field to knot up the game at 2-2 with no outs on the board.
In the next at-bat, catcher Clare Hosack was hit by a pitch, and Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso decided to make a change, substituting starting third baseman Shelby Pendley in at pitcher, the second of four pitchers she used on the day. Pendley walked third baseman Sarah Smith and allowed a single from shortstop Jordan Strickland to load the bases with two outs. Left fielder Christy Lisenby struck out to end the inning with three still left on base.
Following a single from center fielder Destinee Martinez, Paul retired the side in the second without incident, bringing up the hot Baylor bats. Casey started the inning pitching but gave up a single to center fielder Lindsey Cargill. In the next at-bat, Casey walked Thumann to place runners on first and second, at which point Gasso brought in Pendley to pitch.
Hawkins flied out to right in the next at bat, but Hosack was hit by a pitch to load the bases with still only one out. Smith drew a four-pitch walk to score Cargill in the next at-bat. Gasso switched Pendley once again for Casey, who walked Holl to score Baylor another run. Pendley gave up another run when designated player Linsey Hays hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Hosack. Strickland walked in the next at-bat to load the bases again, but Lisenby popped up to end the inning.
Pendley was hit by a pitch to start the third and Williams walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Cargill dove for a ball and had it bounce over her head for a two-RBI triple for Ellis. With a runner on third, pinch-hitter Paris Townsend hit a sacrifice fly to score Ellis and tie the game up at 5-5 in the third.
Baylor was blanked in the third and fourth, but Oklahoma scored an unearned run in the fourth after an error from Hawkins before the game was halted by a rain delay.
Following the delay, right-hander Kelsey Stevens took over pitching duties for Oklahoma. Down by one in the sixth inning, the Baylor bats made their move. Thumann walked to open the inning and Hawkins added a single in the next at-bat. Hosack was called out at first on a sacrifice bunt, but the runners moved to second and third. After Smith was intentionally walked to load the bases, Holl came up to bat.
The senior has struggled with her swing all season long, and struck out twice with the bases loaded in Friday night’s game. In a seven-pitch at-bat, she overcame her slump and smashed a liner into right field to score Thumann. During the next at-bat, Hays hit a deep sacrifice fly that allowed Hawkins to slide in and score and give Baylor a 7-6 lead. Oklahoma intentionally walked Strickland, and Robin Landrith came in to pinch-hit for Lisenby with the bases loaded. Stevens lost control and threw a wild pitch that allowed Smith to come in and score to give Baylor a commanding 8-6 lead heading into the seventh.
Left-hander Whitney Canion was not expected to play today, but she was brought out in the sixth inning to close out the game. Canion did not disappoint, retiring all four batters that she faced and striking out two to pick up her first win of the weekend.
The same two pitchers, Canion and Stevens, threw complete games on both Friday and Saturday, but the coaches today had a different idea. In all, there were nine pitching changes between the two sides, and seven different players pitched over the course of the game today. When the dust settled however, the same two pitchers were awarded the decisions.
Paul pitched 5.1 innings and gave up three earned runs while striking out four in a no-decision.
Baylor softball will get back to work with a three-game series on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Oklahoma State. First pitch for Thursday’s game will be at 7 p.m.