By Shehan Jeyarajah
The Bears were able to use early offense to their advantage, scoring seven runs through three innings in a decisive 7-1 victory over the visiting North Texas Mean Green Tuesday at Getterman Stadium.
Baylor (37-12) jumped on North Texas (28-20) early and often, which gave it a rare chance to rest some starters and give bench players an opportunity to earn some playing time.
“You don’t have an opportunity to [play your depth] very often,” head coach Glenn Moore said. “I really consider teams still in the game when they have seven runs because there are a lot of powerful offenses out there. We were fortunate to stay within seven and use our bench a little bit.”
North Texas pitcher senior Ashley Kirk struggled with her control to start, throwing six straight balls to walk junior right fielder Kaitlyn Thumann and then fell in the count to freshman second baseman Ari Hawkins before she grounded out. Senior first baseman Holly Holl reached base when left fielder Jackie Miller dropped a routine fly ball to put runners on first and second.
Senior catcher Clare Hosack took advantage and crushed a three-run home run, her first homer in almost a month. The RBI’s were Hosack’s 40th of the season and 100th of her Baylor career, which moves her into a tie with former Baylor All-American Ashley Monceaux (2006-2007).
“You always want to come out and get on the board early. When people get on base and I’m able to get a hit like that, it just really helps our pitchers too.”
Sophomore designated player Linsey Hays added a solo home run of her own in the next at-bat to send the Bears out to a quick 3-0 lead after one.
In the third, sophomore right-hander Heather Stearns found herself in trouble. She walked catcher Bryana Wade to open the inning before allowing a deep hit that eventually sailed just foul. She eventually worked out of the inning without incident.
Hawkins led off the third with a single and Hosack and Smith each walked to load the bases with one out and Hays coming to the plate. Hays hit a RBI single for her second RBI of the game. In the next at-bat, Strickland added a two-RBI single to left field to give the Bears a commanding 7-0 lead coming out of the third inning.
Moore stepped off the gas petal and took things easy from that point on. Between the fourth and seventh, 18 different position players made an appearance and 19 of the 20 players played at some point, sans senior pitcher Whitney Canion.
Despite so many players making an appearance, no reserve reached base at any point during the ballgame.
“I’m not particularly happy with how those subs played tonight,” Moore said. “I thought they could have fought a little bit harder. It’s hard to be tough on those kids though when they’re sitting on the bench watching and can’t get into any rhythm.”
North Texas’s lone run came on a pinch-hit solo home run in the top of the seventh inning. It was the lone blemish on a strong day from Stearns.
In a complete game effort, Stearns threw seven innings and allowed four hits, one walk and one run while striking out eight to move to an ERA of 1.53 and improve her record to 12-3 on the season.
“The past few weeks, it’s been tough to find my rhythm,” Stearns said. “Tonight, it was really nice to figure some pitches out. It was good to finally get in rhythm and go seven innings tonight.”
Baylor will play McNeese State at 5 p.m. today at Getterman Stadium.