By Krista Pirtle
Softball is obviously different than baseball: the ball is yellow and bigger, there is no mound or grass in the infield, the pitcher is closer to the batter and pitches the ball underhanded … oh yeah, the dugout is much louder.
When you go to a softball game, you can bet on hearing a variety of cheers coming from the dugouts as the players for both teams shout their creative chants for their teammates and at opposing pitchers.
“Obviously, I’m a guy,” head coach Glenn Moore said. “I don’t cheer. I didn’t cheer growing up, but I think it’s a neat part of our game.”
For the Lady Bears softball team this season, the voice that leads the chants belongs to sophomore center fielder Kathy Shelton.
“She’s definitely the vocal leader,” sophomore Whitney Canion said. “I like that part of her because whether [or not] we’re down, she’s going to be screaming no matter what. I think it gets the team going to hear someone like her.”
Shelton finished her freshman season last year playing in all but three games with a .279 ERA and a perfect 17-17 in stolen bases.
Right now, Shelton is perfect yet again in steal attempts, but she already has swiped 19 bags barely into conference play.
She also has held the leadoff spot in the batting rotation, hitting .317, and trading off some to the two hole with junior Kayce Walker.
“Me and Kayce are different,” Shelton said. “Kayce has more of an eye, and I’m more aggressive. Especially with good pitchers like that, you want to jump on their good pitches otherwise they’re going to throw a lot of junk to throw you off.”
The Lady Bears have proved to have both power and speed in the batter’s box this season; however, they are sitting dead last in the Big 12 conference with an average of .297 while Texas Tech leads the way with a .379.
But, when it comes to the circle, Baylor has control. The Lady Bears’ pitching staff of Canion, sophomore Courtney Repka and freshman Liz Paul has combined for an ERA of 1.21, only .02 behind Texas who lead the Big 12.
The presence of Canion in the circle for Baylor has been great for Baylor, as she has already recorded a .92 ERA and struck out 152 batters.
Sitting three strikeouts ahead of her is the league-leading pitcher in Missouri’s sophomore Chelsea Thomas who has a .52 ERA.
Thomas and her No. 5 Missouri Tigers are headed to Waco to face off in a two series match-up with Baylor at 3 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.
Smith knows his squad is ready to face the Tigers, no matter the ranking in front of their opponent’s name.
“I think there’s a respect for Missouri, but having played the competition we’ve played with the talent we have out there, we’re pretty confident in our abilities,” Moore said.
Missouri not only has talent in the circle but also a threat the Lady Bears will want to keep off the bases, senior Rhea Taylor with 21 swiped bags for the season.
When you back up and compare these two teams, however, the only difference is the ranking before their name.
Baylor has the upper hand this weekend with the home field advantage, relying on the fans to help cheer them to two wins.