By Shehan Jeyarajah
Softball is a game of streaks, and Baylor looks ready to put it all together. After struggling in a double-header against Louisiana, the Bears have won six straight, including a dominant three-game sweep of the Kansas Jayhawks last weekend.
With eyes on the postseason, No. 17 Baylor (38-12, 9-4) will look to cement home field advantage in the NCAA Regionals with a strong series showing against Iowa State (22-25-1) this weekend in Ames.
Over the last six games, Baylor has outscored opponents by a combined score of 39-3 behind a power surge from designated player Linsey Hays. The sophomore has four straight games with multiple hits.
In the last game, Hays and junior shortstop Jordan Strickland joined senior catcher Clare Hosack as the three Bears with double-digit home runs. This is the first time since 2007 that the Bears have featured three double-digit home run hitters.
With her .414 batting average, .592 slugging percentage and .513 on-base percentage, junior right fielder Kaitlyn Thumann leads a lineup that hits .306 with a .483 slugging percentage as a team.
Senior left-hander Whitney Canion has played an impressive season thus far in her sixth and final year on Baylor’s campus. The former All-American is 23-9 with a 1.37 ERA in 27 starts. In her last start against McNeese State, Canion threw her fifth career no-hitter, including only the second seven inning no-hitter of her career. Canion struck out 14 of 21 batters.
Sophomore pitcher Heather Stearns has come on as of late. Against North Texas, Stearns allowed only one run and four hits in a complete game of work. For the year, she is 12-3 with a 1.53 ERA in her 19 starts.
Iowa State has struggled this season to a record of 22-25-1, including only 2-10 in conference games. The only two Cyclone wins came against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in series that they still lost 1-2. The Cyclones have lost or tied four of their last five games.
The Bears are tied for second in the conference with Texas at 9-4, and sit within striking distance of the league-leading Oklahoma.
After the series against Iowa State, Baylor will play two games against Texas. May 6 is a makeup game in Waco to replace the March 23 game that was rained out.
Regardless of whether or not the Bears are able to win the Big 12, Baylor softball has a realistic shot to make it back to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2011.
The Bears are sitting at No. 13 in RPI, which would set them up to host one of the 16 regional competitions to be announced on May 11.
“I think with our RPI we’re in very good shape to host a regional,” Baylor coach Glenn Moore said. “I’d be disappointed if we didn’t.”
The Bears feature a balanced offensive lineup that is hitting with a true pitching ace in Canion. Baylor has as good of a chance as any team to reach the World Series.
No. 17 Baylor softball will play Iowa State at 3 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday at Southwest Athletic Complex in Ames, Iowa.