By Krista Pirtle
While the softballs used were not signed by the Great Bambino, the No. 25 Baylor Lady Bears played against No. 5 Texas like it was sand lot baseball.
High hopes were riding on this season after advancing to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series a year ago.
That confidence, however, seemed to break when junior pitcher Whitney Canion tore her ACL running out a grounder to first base. The Lady Bears are 5-8 in conference play with 12 games remaining.
Before the Texas game, Baylor head coach Glenn Moore urged his team to have fun.
“I asked the team yesterday to play sand lot softball and just enjoy it again,” Moore said.
That game came after a weekend break for the team to reconvene after a heart-breaking loss to Texas A&M on April 10 in Waco.
Time with family and much-needed rest might have done the squad more good than planned.
“It came at a much-needed time,” Moore said. “They were drained. A smart coach would do that before a much easier opponent. It’s good to see the team we started the season with. We haven’t seen that in quite a while.”
The Under Armour uniforms have been out on the field, but something inside them was missing.
The continual close losses to top teams seemed to have sucked the heart out of the Lady Bears.
“We haven’t been having fun this year, to be honest,” senior third baseman Megan Turk said. “We’ve won, but we’ve been stressed while we win. I think that we put everything aside and went out and played like we were on a tee-ball team again. That’s how we need to have fun. Just have fun with it.”
This fun perspective on the game they have played for years will come in handy as they travel to the city with dirt in its wind: Lubbock.
The Red Raider softball team has not had a strong year except for its series win over top-tier Missouri. Normally a trip to West Texas is easily overlooked and assumed a trio of wins to add to the column, but this weekend will prove a tougher task.
“The Texas game really builds up our spirits,” senior right fielder Kayce Walker said. “Tech went in and took two games from Missouri, which was a big surprise. It gave us confidence to go in and take care of business at Tech. That win right there gave us a breath of fresh air.”
Texas Tech has smashed 57 homers this season while Baylor has only gone yard 11 times.
While the pitching lacks a dominant edge and the offense is inconsistent, the Baylor defense is what has brought the Lady Bears this far.
“Our forte is our defense,” Moore said.
Baylor will have to step up on both sides of the ball, but playing to win is not enough for the Lady Bears.
“We just want to play for each other and for the love of the game again and not for all the pressure this sport and college athletics put on you,” Walker said.
Baylor will hit the road for seven straight games starting with a three-game series at No. 24 Texas Tech beginning at 6 p.m. today in Lubbock.