By Shehan Jeyarajah
After losing both games of a double-header to No. 16 Louisiana last Tuesday, Baylor softball needed a strong weekend showing to stay alive in the Big 12 standings.
On a weekend filled with recognition and celebration for Senior Day, No. 14 Baylor pulled out the brooms for a three-game sweep over the visiting Kansas Jayhawks at Getterman Stadium.
Senior pitcher Whitney Canion showed up in a big way. The left-hander started two of the three games and earned the win in all three after throwing 12 innings of shutout softball this weekend. Her performance was capped off by a complete game shutout on Sunday.
“It’s the end of the season, and it’s my last year,” Canion said. “I’m never going to say no to the ball. I just really have to keep my mechanics good because I know I’m going to be throwing a lot. That will really help me in the postseason. Yes, I’m throwing a lot, but I love it.”
Baylor’s hitters found their rhythm early and often off of Kansas pitcher Alicia Pille. A strong defensive performance combined with the consistent offense to lead the Bears to a 7-0 opening victory on Friday.
Baylor (36-12, 9-4) continued its offensive surge into the third inning. Hosack singled and Holl lined a double down the right field line to put runners on second and third. Junior shortstop Jordan Strickland continued her power streak and doubled to left center to score both Hosack and Holl.
After the offensive exhibition on Friday, Baylor struggled to produce offensively on Saturday, but late game heroics pushed the Bears to a 2-1 victory and a series victory on Saturday.
After surrendering a run on a single to Kansas shortstop Chaley Brickey, Moore opted to replace relief pitcher Paul with Canion.
“I’m not really a relief pitcher,” Canion said. “But I love these pressure situations.”
Canion calmly came to the circle and struck out three straight batters to end the inning.
Heading into the seventh, the game was still deadlocked at 1-1. After two walks and an error from Hawkins, the bases were loaded with only one out on the board. Again in a pressure situation, Canion struck out two straight to end the inning.
All that set the table for the bottom of the seventh. Smith flew out to lead off, which brought sophomore designated player Linsey Hays to the plate. Hays fell down 1-2 immediately in the count before working to a full count with the game on the line.
“She had me a little bit off balance for most of the at-bat, but I knew that she would give me a changeup at some point because she did in all of my other at-bats,” Hays said.
And when Hays saw the changeup, she blasted a walk-off home run over the right field wall to launch the Bears to a dramatic 2-1 victory at Getterman.
Senior Day is a day to honor the seniors, and all of them made sure their final conference series game was memorable on Sunday afternoon as the Bears won in a dominating five inning 10-0 performance.
Holl got the festivities started in the first inning. After Hawkins got on base to start, Holl hit a powerful two-run homer to right to get Baylor on the board.
Coming into Sunday’s game, senior Liz Paul had never hit a collegiate home run. In celebration of Senior Day, Moore started Paul in the outfield. Paul had not played left field since high school and only had 57 total at-bats coming into Sunday’s game.
When Paul came to bat with Riley Browder pinch running at fourth and no outs in the fourth, Paul took full advantage of the opportunity. In the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Paul lifted one over the left field foul pole for her first career home run.
“I was thinking this morning, I’ve never hit a home run in my career,” Paul said. “I was kind of sad about that. So when I got an opportunity to hit, I decided I would make the most of it and go up there and swing for the fences.”
Paul’s homer started an offensive explosion in the fourth. Freshman center fielder Lindsey Cargill singled and Thumann hit a two-run homer of her own, the first home run she has ever hit at Getterman.
When the dust cleared, all three graduating seniors who batted scored a run, and Paul and Holl each hit two-run home runs. Canion also picked up the win after a complete game shutout.
“I know we’ve never had a senior group that well together on Senior Day,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of talent in that group, and as a coach I couldn’t be more proud to see all of them contribute. The one who’s received the least playing time in four years end up being queen for the day, and that made it even more special.”
Over the series, Kansas left 24 runners on base and scored only one run.
Baylor softball will get back to work at 6 p.m. Tuesday against North Texas at Getterman Stadium. They will turn around and play another against McNeese State at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Waco.