By Sheehan Jeyarajah
Baylor softball has reached impressive heights this season, ranking as high as No.12 in the polls this weekend before a 2-1 series loss to Oklahoma.
Contrary to many top opposing teams that feature a majority of upperclassmen, Baylor has not shied away from giving its young guns an opportunity.
In last weekend’s series against defending national champion No. 12 Oklahoma, three true freshman started and were key contributors: freshman left fielder Christy Lisenby, freshman center fielder Lindsey Cargill and freshman second baseman Ari Hawkins. Cargill received attention after starring at nearby Robinson High School, and her production has continued to Waco.
“I lived like five minutes away from here, and I’ve always wanted to come to Baylor,” Cargill said. “I’ve seen a lot of games here, especially with Whitney [Canion] pitching. In high school, I always wanted to play with Whitney and Clare Hosack. I’ve been watching Baylor softball ever since I was a little kid. It’s a dream come true to play in center field here.”
Hawkins has been huge for Baylor in her first season in Waco. In 37 starts, Hawkins is second on the team with a .374 batting average and fourth with a .510 slugging percentage in 98 at-bats this season. Hawkins joined the Bears after being named an all-state shortstop in California.
The three freshmen are joined in the starting lineup by fellow underclassmen sophomore shortstop Sarah Smith, sophomore pitcher Heather Stearns and redshirt sophomore designated player Linsey Hays. Hays points to the leadership of upperclassmen players to why underclassmen have been able to integrate so seamlessly.
“We have some great leadership on this team,” Hays said. “Our seniors have a lot of experience. They’ve gone to the World Series. They’re the last class who got to experience that, so I think the leadership has played a huge factor in allowing the underclassmen to step in and be ready for big games.”
Senior pitcher Whitney Canion has been the unquestioned leader on this team. After redshirting two seasons with arm and knee injuries, she has been on campus for six years either on the field or in the clubhouse.
“We have someone with six years of college experience and two of those years were spent in a dugout watching all the things that we get frustrated at as coaches,” Moore said.
Moore also lauded fifth-year senior first baseman Holly Holl for her leadership. Alongside the leadership in the dugout, Moore points to club softball readying the impact freshman for the diamond.
“The ones who usually come in and contribute to that degree are the ones who have invested in their travel ball at a high level,” Moore said. “They’ve seen a lot of these kids that we’re facing, so they come in more confident and they play better against them. That’s usually what we see dictate success early in the career of a player.”
Hawkins was a major competitor for the California Grapettes out of Gomes, Calif., who finished the season ranked in the top 25 nationally. Cargill played on Buzz Fastpitch, another top 200 program in the nation.
With such a prevalence of young players on the roster getting big-time experience for a top softball team, the future looks bright for Baylor softball.