By Shehan Jeyarajah
No. 12 Baylor and No. 13 Oklahoma met in a battle of Big 12 softball dominance over the weekend at Getterman Stadium. The Bears dropped the first two games of the series on Friday and Saturday, but earned a come-from-behind win Sunday to salvage a 2-1 series split.
Outside of a disastrous fifth inning, senior pitcher Whitney Canion threw a no-hitter on Friday. Unfortunately, the three hits and three runs allowed in the fifth were the difference as Oklahoma stole a 3-2 win over Baylor in the series opener.
“I was really on, except for that fifth inning,” Canion said after the loss. “When it rains, it pours.”
Catcher Whitney Ellis singled to lead off the inning, and designated player Whitney Miller took advantage by smashing a two-run home run to give Oklahoma its first lead of the ballgame.
The two runs would have been manageable for Baylor on this day, but freshman left fielder Christy Lisenby dropped a routine pop-fly that allowed right fielder Callie Parsons to reach second that set up an RBI triple by third baseman Georgia Casey to give Oklahoma a commanding 3-1 lead.
Baylor came close to responding in the fifth, loading the bases with two outs. Junior third baseman Sarah Smith singled to left to drive in one and cut the lead to 3-2, but the inning ended with the bases loaded. Baylor’s only other run came on a solo home run from senior first baseman Holly Holl. While she hit a homer in her second at-bat, she struck out twice with two outs and the bases loaded in both the first and fifth. Baylor left seven total runners on base in the loss.
“We had our opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on them, while they had few opportunities and capitalized on all of them,” Holl said. “That was the difference in the ballgame.”
Canion took the loss after striking out six and allowing two earned runs in a complete game. Oklahoma right-hander Kelsey Stevens picked up the win.
After the tough loss, Baylor’s offense was held to one hit in a 2-0 loss to spoil another strong start from Canion.
Just like Friday’s game, the second game of the series was decided in the fifth inning. Center fielder Destinee Martinez singled to lead off the inning and Parsons reached first base herself two batters later. After Casey’s sacrifice fly advanced the runners to second and third, left fielder Kady Self hit a RBI single to put the first run on the board. Third baseman Shelby Pendley added an RBI single of her own in the next at-bat, and that was all she wrote.
Baylor’s only hit of the afternoon came when junior right fielder Kaitlyn Thumann hit a double to deep right field. It took until the fifth inning until a single Baylor batter reached base.
“Things weren’t falling our way,” Thumann said. “We were hitting it hard, but we just lined out. That’s the game of softball; you can line out every single time, but you’re still not on base.”
For her one-hit shutout, Stevens once again earned the win. Canion added her second loss in as many days.
In stark contrast to the first two games of the weekend, Sunday afternoon’s game turned into a slugfest.
Despite giving up a three-run lead, Baylor came from behind after an 80-minute rain delay to stun Oklahoma and salvage the series.
Baylor’s offense came out ready to play, taking leads of 2-0 and 5-2 over the course of the first two innings, but managed to give both leads back thanks to inconsistent pitching to open.
Heading into the weather delay, Baylor trailed the Sooners 6-5 after four innings and was struggling to keep its focus.
“The lightning strike was a blessing in disguise,” softball coach Glenn Moore said. “When we went in the locker room, we were 24 or 25 individuals and we came out as one. We had a real heart-to-heart meeting, and got focused.”
The key fifth inning was scoreless, but Baylor’s bats came to life in the sixth. Baylor loaded the bases with only one out after Smith was intentionally walked to bring up Holl. The first baseman overcame her poor weekend and hit an RBI single to tie up the game.
Sophomore designated player Linsey Hays added an RBI sacrifice fly in the next at-bat, and Oklahoma intentionally walked junior shortstop Jordan Strickland to once again load the bases. Stevens threw a wild pitch that bounced past the catcher and allowed Smith to score another run and put the Bears up 7-5.
Sophomore pitcher Heather Stearns was pulled from the game after allowing two runs and recording only one out.
Moore pulled her and replaced her with senior reliever Liz Paul, the first of many pitching changes on the day.
Canion earned a win after recording four straight outs to close the win.
“I had four outs to go,” Canion said. “When we scored those three runs, I knew it was just three outs to go. I don’t do fist-pump very much, but I found myself doing that because I saw this team come out and fight.”
In all, there were eight total pitching changes and seven different pitchers made an appearance. All three pitchers who have appeared for Baylor pitched at some point.
With the series loss, Baylor moved to 4-3 in Big 12 play, but Oklahoma sits at 9-1 after the series, which gives them the advantage to win the conference.
“I don’t think this will determine whether we go to the World Series or not,” Canion said. “It may determine the Big 12 Championship, but we didn’t win it my sophomore year and we went to the World Series. To see us come back like that is the reason we made it in 2011.”
Baylor will play a three-game series Thursday, Friday and Saturday at OSU in Stillwater, Okla. First pitch will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.