By Krista Pirtle
The 2010-2011 Baylor Lady Bears softball team went further than any team that preceded them, finishing the season with a record of 47-15.
This placed them first in the Big 12 and No. 4 in the nation, their highest ever ranking.
After finishing the regular season 40-12, the Lady Bears were on their way to the Maryland region, where they went 3-0.
“We didn’t take anybody for granted,” head coach Glenn Moore said.
Their first opponent was Lehigh, which Baylor shut out 4-0. Junior pitcher Whitney Canion and company continued to shut out opponents in the next series against East Carolina, where they were faced with the second-best pitcher they had seen all year, Toni Paisley, according to Moore.
After the regional, Baylor headed to the super regionals to face No. 8 Georgia on their home field in Athens.
“It was the most hostile environment I’ve ever been in as a coach,” Moore said. “It was Texas A&M on steroids.”
Despite the environment, the Lady Bears outhit the Bulldogs 9-3 and won the first game 5-1.
“I was so impressed with our girls’ focus, how that never got under their skin,” Moore said. “If anything it motivated them. They showed a lot of maturity and leadership. They went into that environment and not only played their hearts out and left everything on the field, they were just themselves and played with blinders on.”
Game two, however, went a little differently, as Baylor was run-ruled in the fifth inning by Georgia, 14-2.
“Their tactic was to demoralize us so that we wouldn’t be able to come back,” Moore said. “That worked for our favor because we rested our number one while they wore theirs down. Not only that, I gave credit to our number two and three pitchers, Liz Paul and Courtney Repka, who didn’t pitch well against them, but it wore them down.”
After a game like that, in such a hostile environment, and with the momentum swinging in Georgia’s favor, it seemed that going into the third game would prove fatal for Baylor.
Many on the team pointed out that the girls all have great attitudes, but they are also under great leadership, a head coach who motivated them to jump out in game three, scoring five runs in the first inning.
“I told the team it didn’t matter if you lost by one or fifty-one. It’s still a loss, and they have to beat you again,” Moore said. “Now, we have a fresh pitcher who has been steaming over in the dugout on national television in front of a hostile crowd.”
The Lady Bears captured the win for the game, the win for the series, the win for the super regionals and the bid for the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.
“I don’t think it’s fully hit me that we’re going to the World Series,” senior third baseman Megan Turk said. “But it’s a pretty sweet feeling. I’ve never seen so much heart out of a group of girls. I don’t know what happened between games, but we kept each other up. We played for each other.”
For their first game of the World Series, the Lady Bears faced a familiar foe, Oklahoma State. This was a game where an unexpected hero answered the call when she could have ignored it.
Junior Kelsi Kettler has been next in line for her position as catcher when sophomore Clare Hosack came in and got the start.
The game was scoreless in the eighth inning. Kettler was at the plate with two outs and two strikes. The very next pitch she sent over the left field wall just around the foul pole, giving Baylor the win, 1-0.
“She didn’t play all year, so then she gets her chance and it just means the world,” sophomore first baseman Holly Holl said. “We all know how much she wanted it and how hard she works, so to see her hard work pay off like that is really cool.”
The second game of the series didn’t go well, as Baylor got shut out by Alabama 3-0.
Their next game, again, was against a familiar foe in Missouri.
The battle started at 8:30 p.m. and lasted for three and a half hours before a run finally crossed the plate.
In the bottom of the 13th, Holl stepped up to the plate and smashed a shot over the left field wall for the 1-0 victory.
The team left the softball diamond early in the morning, with limited options for food. Walmart appeared to be the best option they had. As they got off the bus in the Walmart parking lot, the Lady Bears received standing ovations from people in the parking lot and in the aisles of the store.
The team ate in the store’s McDonald’s, catching their breath and enjoying the moment.
Arizona State was well rested and eager to play Baylor on Sunday afternoon.
The Lady Bears had not had an adequate amount of rest since the extremely physical, mental and emotional game against Missouri they finished 12 hours prior.
“Whatever gas was left in their tank, it wasn’t much, they played their hearts out,” Moore said. “I think Arizona State was in better shape than we were.”
A team picked to finished No. 6 out of 10 teams for the Big 12 in the preseason went the furthest in the World Series than any other team, both in the Big 12 for the season and in Baylor’s history.
The Lady Bears will return nine players to the 2012 team that started at least one game in the World Series, including All-American USA team member Canion, and unanimously All-Big 12 selection Kathy Shelton.