By Shehan Jeyarajah
When the stakes were highest, Baylor softball delivered. They were underdogs heading into the series, but calmly stepped up to take both games from No. 4 Georgia to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2011.
The Bears dominated the first game on Friday afternoon.
Junior third baseman Sarah Smith blasted a three-run home run in the first inning to give the Bears a quick 4-0 lead that seemed to demoralize the Bulldogs. The Bears added an RBI double from senior first baseman Holly Holl and a score on a wild pitch to push their lead to 6-0 after only three innings.
Junior shortstop Jordan Strickland hit a two-run homer to left and freshman second baseman Ari Hawkins added an RBI single to left to push Baylor’s lead to 9-0. Georgia third baseman Alex Hugo hit a home run in the bottom of the sixth, but it was too-little-too-late, and Baylor went on to run-rule Georgia 9-1.
In a noon matinee, Baylor was forced to fight back from early deficits to eventually pull away and win 6-3 to advance to the next round.
Down 3-2 in the fifth inning, sophomore designated player Linsey Hays blasted a two-run home run over the right field foul pole to give Baylor a 4-3 lead they would never surrender. Georgia committed three errors in the sixth inning, which led to two more Baylor runs.
Canion pitched another strong performance, earning her 31st win of the season after allowing three runs in a seven-inning complete game. Hugo had a big home run in the first inning, her second of the weekend, but Canion pitched around her to limit the Bulldogs to two runs for the rest of the game.
Hays was two-for-three with two runs scored and two RBIs on the day. Strickland and freshman center fielder Lindsey Cargill each added RBIs of their own.
The Women’s College World Series consists of two double-elimination brackets, with the winner of each bracket moving on to play a three-game series to determine the winner of the World Series. Baylor advanced to the WCWS for the first time since 2011, and for the third time in program history. All three appearances were under current head coach Glenn Moore.
Baylor will play the winner of No. 5 Florida and No. 12 Washington in the first round. Joining Baylor on this side of the bracket will be the winner of No. 1 Oregon/No. 16 Minnesota and No. 8 Florida State. Gameplay will start on May 29 in Oklahoma City.