By Krista Pirtle
The weather has cooled off and the wind has picked up. Yes, it’s softball season.
This weekend the Lady Bears will begin play in the Getterman/QTI Classic that will take place at Getterman Stadium here in Waco.
The Lady Bears are returning seven starters from last season’s World Series squad, including junior pitcher Whitney Canion, who pitched for Team USA over the summer.
“The days are going by slower the closer it gets,” Canion said. “I’m so excited for Friday.”
Baylor will face Wichita State and Iowa Friday afternoon, Arkansas and Belmont Saturday afternoon and UT-Arlington Sunday afternoon.
This weekend, however, head coach Glenn Moore wants Canion to focus on the bullpen, starting her for two of the five games this weekend.
Junior pitcher Courtney Repka will start against Wichita State, sophomore Liz Paul will start against Arkansas and freshman Linsey Hays against Belmont, leaving Canion Iowa and UT-Arlington.
“Hopefully we’ll throw her only two times this weekend, maybe let her close something to loosen her up Saturday and get some soreness out,” Moore said.
Canion is also making a name for herself in the batter’s box.
“I’m excited to see her buy into that,” Moore said. “For the majority of the weekend you’ll see her bat the four hole because she’s really that big of a threat and has had that good of an offseason.”
Behind Canion will be a solid lineup on both sides of the ball.
In addition to seven veterans, the Lady Bears have added eight freshmen to the 2012 squad.
“Were just building off of last year because we have so many returners and just lost one starter, Dani (Leal), our shortstop,” senior right fielder Kayce Walker said. “We really are excited and anxious to see how all the freshmen play in their roles.”
Up the middle defensively will be the primary display of the talented freshman class, as Jordan Strickland will start at shortstop and Delaney Guy at second.
“We lost two pretty important middle infielders, Dani (Leal) and KJ (Freeland)” Moore said. “But I think we’ve replaced them with equal talent, not experience. It will take some time for them to get their feet wet.”
The only position up for grabs at this point is left field, tossed up between senior Sydney Wilson, sophomore Shelbi Redfearn and Hays.
Moore said the starter for this position will be determined by offensive production.
As a whole, the lineup for this season’s squad holds promise for both the short and long game.
The leadoff will be junior Kathy Shelton, who, along with Canion, is on the top 50 watch list for the Player of the Year.
“I just set the table for my teammates and get on base as much as I can,” Shelton said.
Following her is Walker, sophomore first baseman Holly Holl and Canion.
The fifth hole will belong to senior third baseman Megan Turk.
“When you have Whitney on base you’re always nervous anyways and then you’re going to put a left-handed hitter that could really pull and hit her with a line drive,” Moore said. “That along with the fact that Megan is a good hitter gives us a pretty solid five holes of hitting.”
This weekend provides Baylor softball with a clean slate founded on the success of last season.