By Shehan Jeyarajah
After dropping their first game to Washington, the Bears won four straight against San Diego, UC Davis, UNLV and Arkansas as No. 16 Baylor softball opened its 2014 season this past weekend with the five-game UNLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas.
The Bears kicked things off with a double-header against Washington on Friday with senior left-hander Whitney Canion on the mound facing off against Washington pitcher Bryanna Walker.
The Bears let Washington jump on them with a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning off an RBI single from Washington second baseman Kelli Suguro and a two-RBI double from sophomore shortstop Jennie McNeill.
Baylor’s junior right fielder Kaitlyn Thumann responded with a solo homer to cut the Washington lead to 3-1 after three innings.
Washington took a commanding 6-1 lead over Baylor with a three-run home run from third baseman Kylee Lahners that drove in pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby and pinch-runner Rylleigh Zbaraschuk.
Baylor sophomore left fielder Linsey Hays slammed a home run with two strikes to cut the Washington lead to 6-2, but that was the only hit the Bears mustered in the fourth.
“You can’t dig a deep hole and expect to come out of it against the No. 3 team,” Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said. “However, we battled back and gave ourselves the opportunity on a couple of occasions to get back in it, and I was proud of them battling back. I’m happy with Liz Paul’s performance in the circle, and that we had nearly 20 hits on the day. We know where we are and what we need to work on. That’s why we schedule strong opponents.”
Baylor moved on to face the University of San Diego in the second game of a double-header with sophomore right-hander Heather Stearns on the mound facing off against USD senior right-hander Cassidy Coleman.
Baylor jumped on USD right from the first inning. An illegal pitch set up runners on second and third for Canion. The senior knocked in a single to score Thumann and give Baylor a quick lead. USD scored after a throwing error by Baylor sent senior outfielder Dana Prelsnik all the way to third base, where she was batted in on a sacrifice hit from third baseman Chloe Kaneko.
Baylor took over in the second inning. Senior first baseman Holly Holl was batted in on a double from Stearns. Thumann walked to set up a bases loaded situation for Baylor with no outs. Freshman infielder Lindsey Cargill hit a single for her first RBI. Smith hit a sacrifice fly that batted in Hawkins to give Baylor a 3-1 lead. Canion was then by a pitch to load the bases again and set up a grand slam by junior infielder Jordan Strickland to give Baylor an 8-1 lead. The Bears scored one more time after sophomore Robin Landrith tripled to drive in Holl again.
Baylor allowed one hit for the rest of the game to San Diego and the game was called thanks to the five-inning-rule to give Baylor a 9-1 win.
Sterns was credited with the win after allowing only two hits
and no earned runs in four innings. Colman got the loss after allowing nine earned runs and eight hits in one and two-thirds innings’ work.
Baylor brought its momentum in to a Saturday matchup with UC Davis. Canion once again took the mound for Baylor, while sophomore left-hander Leah Munden took the mound for UC Davis.
Baylor exploded out of the gates with three runs in the first inning and continued scoring in the second. With two outs on the board, a series of doubles from Canion and Strickland drove in two RBIs each. Hosack added a double of her own for another RBI. Hawkins singled to drive in Hosack and push the Baylor lead to 9-0.
When the dust cleared, Baylor destroyed UC Davis 17-1 in only five innings. Hays and leftfielder Christy Lisenby each had three RBIs for Baylor in the win. UC Davis’ only hit in the game was a solo home run from Amy Nunez.
“I was proud of the way our team continued to battle after two big innings,” Moore said. “Yesterday against San Diego, I felt we got complacent with our large lead, but today the girls kept battling throughout the game.”
Canion earned the win after throwing four innings and allowing only one hit and three strikeouts. Munden took the loss after allowing six earned runs in one and two-thirds innings’ work.
Baylor took on host school UNLV later that day with Stearns on the mound to face off against the Running Rebels’ senior right-hander Amanda Oliveto. No runs scored in the first two innings, but Baylor got the offense going in the third. With runners on first and third, Smith hit a home run to right-center field to put Baylor up 3-0.
The offense kept going in the fourth when Strickland hit a solo home run to start off the inning. On the very next throw, Landrith hit a home run of her own to give Baylor a 5-0 lead.
Hosack drove in two runs with a double to score Hawkins and Thumann. The Running Rebels responded with a scored run by senior first baseman Tayler Van Acker off a Baylor error to cut the lead to 7-3. Van Acker drove in another run in the seventh, but Baylor held on to win 7-4.
Stearns earned the win after striking out six allowing only one earned run in five and one-thirds innings. Baylor closed the tournament against the University of Arkansas on Sunday. The game faced Baylor ace Canion against junior lefthander Kimmy Beasley.
Baylor got on the board in the second inning when Linsenby got a sacrifice hit to drive in freshman infielder Riley Browder. They continued the momentum with a two-run homer from Cargill to give Baylor a 3-0 lead. Strickland homered to score two runs and give Baylor the 5-0 lead it would take for the win. Canion got the win after throwing her 31st shutout, a new Baylor record. The senior allowed only two hits in a dominating performance.
“I’m proud of the way the girls finished the tournament, playing an early morning game after finishing really late last night,” Moore said. They brought a very good game against a very good team in Arkansas, it was a high RPI game, we needed to play well and I thought we did. Whitney really threw a great game, and I couldn’t be happier with our offense. I thought we put a complete together in the final day of the tournament.”
The Bears left the UNLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic with a record of 4-1. The Bears return home this weekend for the Getterman Classic in Waco with a five-game slate against UAB, Drake, Lipscomb, Iowa and East Carolina.